Iranian Nobel Laureate dissident blasts US intervention

The Feb. 8 NY Times featured an op-ed by Shirin Ebadi, Iranian dissident attorney and winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, co-authored with Hadi Ghaem of Human Rights Watch: "The Human Rights Case Against Attacking Iran". Ebadi is skeptical about Condoleeza Rica’s recent assertion that attacking Iran is "not on the agenda at this point." She is even more skeptical about Condi’s claim "The Iranian regime’s human rights behavior…is something to be loathed."

Writes Ebadi: "American policy toward the Middle East, and Iran in particular, is often couched in the language of human rights… But for human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause."

Ebadi says political prisoners, torture and harrassment of journalists remain realities in Iran. "But Iranian society has refused to be coerced into silence. The human rights discourse is alive and well at the grassroots level…" She cites an example: "Last fall, when security forces unlawfully detained more than 20 young journalists and bloggers because of what they had written, independent Iranian organizations like the Center for Defense of Human Rights, the Association of Journalists for Freedom of Press, and the Students Association for Human Rights campaigned for their release. The outcry, in tandem with support from the international community…led to the release of the detainees." Even "senior government officials came out in favor of releasing the detainees."

"But," Ebadi continues, "the threat of foreign military intervention will provide a powerful excuse for authoritarian elements to uproot these groups and put an end to their growth." Which is exactly what happened when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980, precipitating a period of escalated repression in Iran.

"American hypocrisy doesn’t help, either. Given the longstanding willingness of the American government to overlook abuses of human rights, particularly women’s rights, by close allies in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, it is hard not to see the Bush administration’s focus on human rights violations in Iran as a cloak for its larger strategic interests."

Ebadi is still persecuted for her work as a human rights attorney is Iran. In mid-January, she was ordered to appear before a Revolutionary Court under threat of arrest after she had accused the government of covering up official involvement in the murder of a photojournalist. (Al-Jazeera, Jan. 13) Ebadi refused to show up on grounds that the summons did not specify what charges she was facing, and authorities subsequently dropped the case. (Central Asian and Southern Caucasus Freedom of Expression Network, CASCFEN, Feb. 4)

See also WW4 REPORT #94

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