Nobel Laureate Ebadi Looks at Iran's Contradictions Shirin Ebadi, author of Iran Awakening and winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, discusses the standoff over Iran's nuclear program and the rhetoric of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She also explains why she decided not to leave her homeland.
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Nobel Laureate Ebadi Looks at Iran's Contradictions

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Nobel Laureate Ebadi Looks at Iran's Contradictions

Nobel Laureate Ebadi Looks at Iran's Contradictions

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A M: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope. And when we sat down today with an interpreter, I asked her about Iran's nuclear program and about the statements of Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

SHIRIN EBADI: (Through Translator) The government of Iran claims to have peaceful purposes for its nuclear energy, but the world doesn't buy that. And we wonder what is the solution to this? I think that the solution to this problem is an advanced democracy in Iraq. In democratic governments where people have a say in the government, they don't permit the government to abuse its power.

For instance, look at France. France has an atomic bomb, but the world is not scared of France. Why? Because people have supervision over their government in their democracy.

: And your argument is that we in the West, not just the United States, but France, Britain, elsewhere in Europe, would see Iran as becoming more democratic and therefore we shouldn't worry so much about the prospect of an Iranian bomb?

EBADI: (Through Translator) Yes, that's what I think.

: When Americans hear the president of Iran say we want a nuclear program, and in another context, Israel should be wiped off the map, many Americans think, this is dangerous. This could be the beginning of Armageddon in the entire Middle East because the Israelis would fire back at Iran if they were attacked. Should we believe it? Should we take that seriously when the president of Iran speaks that way?

EBADI: (Through Translator) The government of Iran does not have the intention of attacking Israel, and even if it does have the intention, it does not have the ability to do so.

: Why then, why does the president of Iran make speeches saying such things?

EBADI: (Through Translator) Of course, we need to go back to Mr. Ahmadinejad and ask for clarification of what he talks about. But I think this is just a slogan.

: And a slogan that resonates with the Iranian people, or do people see it as a distraction from the country's problems?

EBADI: (Through Translator) The people of Iran know that the Iranian government is not going to attack Israel. They heard what he said and forgot about it, and I think the world should forget about what he said, as well.

: Our general impression here of what has happened in Iran is that a reform-minded president, Khatami, was succeeded in office by a very hotheaded president, Ahmadinejad. It would seem that issues such as yours, human rights, are on the decline in Iran rather than ascendant. Is that correct or is that an incorrect impression?

EBADI: (Through Translator) Yes, the status of human rights has not improved after Khatami's reign.

: Has it declined?

EBADI: (Through Translator) In some aspects, yes.

: In which aspects has it gotten worse?

EBADI: (Through Translator) In censorship and freedom of expression.

: You have remained in Iran throughout all these years, through the time when you were enthusiastic about the revolution, and the time when it was clearly a disaster for you and your family and your clients. Why do you, why did you decide to stay? Why not Los Angeles instead? Why not join so many other Iranians who came to the United States?

EBADI: (Through Translator) The answer is very simple. I'm an Iranian. I belong to Iran and I work for Iran so I have to be in Iran. I want to give you an example here. If your mother becomes sick, will you leave her on the corner of the street, or will you try to get her some treatment? Iran needs treatment at this time and the young people, young educated people, must go back to Iran and build Iran.

: But forgive me if I belabor your metaphor. If your mother is abusing the other children, you get them out of the house.

EBADI: (Through Translator) A mother abuses her children is certainly facing problems. We need to treat that mother.

: There's going to be in this country, I suspect, a great deal of discussion of Iran in the coming months. We're going to hear from some people like yourself, from the Iranian government, from American scholars of Iran, and we're also going to hear from Iranian-Americans, people who came to this country after the Iranian, after the Islamic revolution. What should we make of the views of Iranian expatriates, of Iranian-Americans?

EBADI: (Through Translator) An Iranian is an Iranian regardless of where he or she lives. However, the expatriates who have lived outside of Iran for years should familiarize themselves with the reality in Iran so that their views can be accurate.

: If you could educate all of the expatriates whose views are inaccurate in a simple lesson, what is it you would tell them? What would you tell the people who've lived in America for 25 years that they might not understand about what has happened in your country during that time?

EBADI: (Through Translator) Iran is a land of contradiction, therefore the Iranian society must be observed very carefully. I will give you an example. Even at the present time we have 13 women members of the Parliament and we have a vice president who is a woman. However, on the other hand there are numerous laws against women in Iran. For example, the life of a woman is worth half of that of a man, and if an accident happens on the street, the compensation paid to the woman is half of that paid to a man.

: Still?

EBADI: (Through Translator) Yes. This has been a law that has been passed after the revolution. Is this contradiction not important?

: It seems in the contradiction, though, that the power is on the other side. The guardians are not women.

EBADI: (Through Translator) Yes, that's true, but women have several political positions. I repeat, Iran is a land of contradictions.

: Shirin Ebadi, thank you very much for talking with us today.

EBADI: (Through Translator) Thank you very much, and I want to congratulate you and all of your colleagues on the 35th anniversary of your program.

: Thank you very much. If you would like to have some champagne before you leave, we could probably arrange that. That's Shirin Ebadi who is the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner and author of the new memoir, Iran Awakening.

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