Ebadi Refuses to Radicalise Despite of Requests
December 09, 2003
TEHRAN -- Those in Iran and overseas hoping human rights activist Shirin Ebadi would use her new stature as Nobel Peace Prize winner to stand against the Islamic regime look set to be disappointed.
For Ebadi, "nothing has changed", and her often quiet work consisting of poring over the case files of dissidents or lobbying for steady legal reform does not look set to evolve into open political confrontation with authorities.
Ebadi, 56, is also firm in her determination to stay out of politics -- and has been quick to stamp on suggestions she could one day, for example, run for president.
"The cult of the hero has always put this country back. Heroes die, betray or fail. But ideals do not," the Nobel laureate told AFP in an interview last week in which she responded to criticism of her continued low profile in Iranian affairs.
The pressure on Ebadi to exploit her new stature -- and virtual immunity since her surprise prize win -- is linked to widespread frustration with the country's mainstream reformists led by embattled President Mohammad Khatami.
During municipal elections in February 2003, turnout in large cities was just above 10 percent. Conservatives trounced the reformers, and the analysts see the same happening when the country votes in a new parliament in February next year.
"She should take a tougher stance," asserted Iraj, a young student and one of many who have lost faith in Khatami. "With the Nobel prize, she is virtually untouchable."
But Ebadi asserts her work is legal, and not political. And when it comes to the mounting pressure on her, she said ordinary Iranians simply need to do more themselves.
"I tell people that they have to fight for their rights themselves, and there are a lot of people doing that," she asserted. "Freedom does not come on a silver platter."
And while her prize win has been taken by many as a step towards her immunity from harassment, her aides point to increasing threats from hardliners who have little regard for the Nobel committee.
"Since her return, she has received a number of threats by telephone or letter. There are maybe 20 or 30 times more threats than before," said Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, spokesman of the Human Rights Defence Circle headed by Ebadi.
"In general, the letters are typed. Recently, some of them have even threatened her daughter Narghess," he added.
And last week, a group of around 50 hardline Islamists stopped Ebadi giving a speech at a women's university in Tehran by chanting slogans including "Death to Ebadi" and "Shirin the American, ask for pardon".
Their anger appeared to have been sparked by her decision to appear without a headscarf in front of television cameras in Paris after the announcement of her award on October 10.
"Be careful not to be unveiled in Oslo, if not you know what awaits you back home," the protestors warned. Nevertheless, Ebadi says she will not be wearing a headscarf when she formally accepts her prize on Wednesday.
Dadkhah argued that in the face of such threats and by making such gestures, Ebadi was already doing enough.
"Those who say that Shirin Ebadi should do more should say more clearly what she could and should do," Dadkhah said. "Since her return she has not stopped calling for the release of political prisoners or demanding legal reform."
"We have asked permission to publish a review. We are still waiting. Several days ago, we published a statement questioning the competence of a revolutionary tribunal to try Ebrahim Yazdi," the head of the liberal opposition Iran Freedom Movement, he said.
"No newspaper published it. So if she should step up her rhythm, there could be a even harder backlash."
Rather than be pushed into politics, Ebadi appears determined to maintain her steady campaign for judicial reform and by taking up the case of dissidents.
"The Nobel prize has not changed my commitment," she said. http://www.iranmania.com/News/ArticleView/Default.asp?NewsCode=20442&NewsKind=Current%20Affairs