Iranian Nobel winner laments polls, warns of violence
Wed Feb 25,12:10 PM ET Add Entertainment - AFP to My Yahoo!
BRUSSELS (AFP) - Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi criticized elections in her country that swept conservatives to power, and issued a veiled warning that opposition to the new regime could turn violent.
But speaking at the European Parliament, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner called on the European Union (news - web sites) to remain engaged with Tehran, saying that dialogue was the only way forward.
The lawyer and rights activist noted that reformist candidates had been disqualified en masse from standing in Friday's election.
"By this means the rights of the Iranian citizens were ignored. In the name of Islam one cannot ignore and undermine citizens rights," she said.
Ebadi warned that the low turnout in the ballots reflected a yawning "gap" between the people and their government.
"If the new groups that come to power seek to ignore the wishes of the people then the gap will widen," she said.
"It is natural that a society in which the people become distant from the government will suffer tension.
"As an Iranian I wish that Iran remains a calm country. I hope the wishes of the people will be respected," she said.
But the Nobel laureate said that, if they were not, the new leadership "must know that one day it's possible that the patience of our youth (might) come to an end. I hope such a day will not come."
According to the final results, the number of new right-wing deputies in the 290-seat Iranian parliament stands at 156.
The Guardians Council, an unelected body run by hardliners, disallowed thousands of reformists from standing in the election, which saw the lowest turnout of any major ballot in the Islamic republic's 25-year history.
The EU, which has long promoted constructive engagement with Iran -- in stark contrast to the United States -- this week called the polls a "setback for democracy."
But Ebadi, speaking to the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, urged the EU to pursue its negotiations.
"You must talk with the Iranian government. Embargoes and boycotts will never solve anything," she said, in an apparent reference to Washington's isolation of a regime it says is part of an "axis of evil."
"It is negotiations that resolve problems," she said, while adding: "These negotiations must have aims and not be mere talk."
The EU's talks with Iran, offering a trade agreement in exchange for human rights improvements, have been on hold since last June when a crisis over Iran's nuclear capacity saw a severe chill in Tehran's international ties.
European Parliament chief Pat Cox, speaking at a joint press conference with Ebadi, insisted that the EU should pursue its dialogue with Iran and above all emphasize the need to improve Tehran's human rights record.
"We have been disappointed at the recent parliamentary elections. They represent a serious democratic setback, and so a new challenge to the dialogue between the EU and Iran," he said.
Ebadi described democracy in her homeland as a flower, which she said bloomed when the reformist Mohammad Khatami (news - web sites) was elected as president in 1997.
"Democracy is like a beautiful flower: it must be constantly watered, it must be taken care of. Otherwise it dies," she said. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20040225/en_afp/iran_vote_ebadi_040225171017
The flower analogy is good.
And trees are better watered by the blood of tyrants.