Ebadi in Oslo to Receive Nobel Peace Prize
December 08, 2003
OSLO -- Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi arrived Monday in Oslo where she will officially receive the Nobel Peace Prize later this week, making her the first Muslim woman to win the prestigious award.
Ebadi, 56, who was chosen for her democracy-building efforts and her work to improve human rights in Iran, will receive the prize from chairman of the Nobel Committee Ole Mjoes at a formal ceremony on Wednesday at 1:30 pm (12:30 in Oslo's City Hall.
King Harald V of Norway, who is usually present at the ceremony, sent his excuses this time, as he was scheduled to undergo surgery for a bladder cancer on Monday.
But Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Regent Haakon Magnus, and Crown Princess Mette-Marit will attend the ceremony.
The peace prize committee's decisions are often controversial and while Ebadi enjoys wide support worldwide, the award has drawn fire from hardliners in Iran who have criticized Ebadi and even sent her death threats for what they perceive to be her Western and secular attitudes and behavior.
At the risk of enraging her critics further, Ebadi said on Sunday that she will attend Wednesday's ceremony without a headscarf, which is mandatory according to her country's laws for Iranian women even when they travel abroad.
"I will not be wearing the hejab," Ebadi told AFP in an interview. "My actions have always irritated some people, but that is not important."
"I want Iranian women to be free to wear or not to wear the hejab," she said, but added that she is just as opposed to moves in secularist France to ban the veil from schools.
Hours before her arrival in Oslo, Ebadi received support from the controversial National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in her struggle for the rights of women, children and dissidents.
"We hope that this Nobel Peace Prize will help the human rights situation in Iran (...) in the whole Middle East and, to a certain extent, in the Islamic world," Perviz Khazai, a NCRI representative in northern Europe said at a press conference in Oslo.
The NCRI, which is the political arm of the People's Mujaheddin Organization, the largest armed movement opposed to the Iranian regime, figures on a United States list of terrorist organizations, but not on the European Union's list.
Asked whether the organization's support may actually work against Ebadi, who is already facing harsh criticism from Iran, Khazai said: "We have to do our best in order to support this move by the Norwegian Nobel Committee because it is a historical chance for the Iranian people."
Khazai, who was the Iranian Ambassador to Sweden and Norway before defecting in 1982, insisted that the democratic reforms initiated by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami are only "cosmetic changes."
The Iranian regime has a "very, very peculiar interpretation of Islam," he said. "It's apartheid between men and women. It's apartheid between civilization and a medieval interpretation of Islam."
In Norway, the discussion over whether or not it is right to maintain economic ties to a country with so little respect for human rights has raged for a long time.
Christian Democrat Lars Rise, a member of the Norwegian parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, has led the attack on public oil company Statoil, which has long been active in Iran, and which has recently been accused of trying to bribe its way to landing more business in the country.
"We cannot accept that a Norwegian state oil company does business with this regime, unless Iran starts to respect human rights, minority rights, women's rights, and the rule of law," he said.
Ebadi will probably be asked to comment on these issues at a press conference at the Nobel Institute in Oslo on Tuesday.
The human rights advocate is the third Muslim and the 11th woman to get the Nobel Peace Prize.
The prize consists of a diploma, a gold medal, and a check for 10 million Swedish kronor (about 1.4 million dollars, 1.1 million euros).
At a separate ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday, the winners of the Literature, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Economics prizes will receive their awards from King Carl XVI Gustaf in Stockholm's Concert Hall.
That ceremony will be followed by a gala banquet for 1,300 guests at Stockholm's City Hall. http://www.iranmania.com/News/ArticleView/Default.asp?NewsCode=20421&NewsKind=Current%20Affairs