In Box

Epiphanies: Shirin Ebadi

"Thirty years have passed and we have yet to arrive at freedom."

I WAS SITTING IN THE COURTHOUSE [after the Islamic Revolution] when an agent from the justice department came and gave me a letter [saying] I was no longer to be a judge. The women of Iran had lost yet another one of their own.

WE CAN BE MUSLIM and practice democracy. It is only undemocratic regimes that believe that Islam and democracy are mutually exclusive and [use it to] rationalize their oppression [of others].

I’VE TAKEN ON MANY CASES in my career. I was a lawyer in the case of a chain of assassinations ordered by the Ministry of Intelligence against opponents of the government. I was a lawyer on behalf of a reporter who was killed in prison. I was the lawyer for a student who was killed in a police raid on the Tehran University dormitories. Each of these, in their own way, represents a violation of human rights.

A POLITICAL LEADER SHOWS people the way, moving in front of the people and showing them a path. A human rights advocate — and I am a human rights advocate — instead walks behind the people, and, if anyone is left behind, takes their hand and helps them.

I WON’T TELL ANYONE WHAT TO DO, whether to vote or not. But, as a citizen and in protest of the law [forbidding candidates not approved by the Guardian Council], I will not vote in any election.

THE SLOGAN OF THE [ISLAMIC] REVOLUTION was "independence, freedom." And we were told that we would arrive at these two principles. Thirty years have passed and we have yet to arrive at freedom.

NOW THAT THE WHOLE WORLD is recommending that we suspend enrichment, the government of Iran should accept suspension and prevent further pressure against Iran.

I DON’T BELIEVE in emulating people. I tell my daughters that they should not use me as a model. Our times and the circumstances of our lives are different, and they must find their own paths.

Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s first female judge and a pioneering defender of human rights, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

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