Tuesday, March 28

Nobel laureate champions democracy


Shirin Ebadi, the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to
win the Nobel Peace Prize, spoke at Royce Hall on Friday, sharing
her views on achieving equality for Iranian women and spreading
democracy, including to Iraq.

A small, organized opposition protested against Ebadi and her
comments.

As a lawyer, human rights activist and former judge, Ebadi works
to promote the rights of Iranian women and children.

Ebadi is also the founder and legal adviser of the Association
for Support of Children’s Rights in Iran and has authored
books, including “The Rights of the Child: A Study of Legal
Aspects of Children’s Rights in Iran,” which has been
translated into English.

She was previously imprisoned for her legal work on behalf of
students who were attacked at Tehran University in 1999.

Some students at the university were injured and some killed as
police tried to crush their pro-democracy demonstration.

In front of Royce Hall, protesters held signs advocating the
immediate fall of the Islamic Republic of Iran and called Ebadi,
who does not explicitly voice opposition to the rule in Iran, an
agent of the republic.

The protest became violent as one protester slapped a member of
the crowd who supported Ebadi.

University police, who were present at the scene, said
information would not be available until a later date.

Protesters also interrupted the program’s
question-and-answer session, saying the fall of the republic should
be the primary issue. Ebadi’s comments focused on human
rights and transitional change to democracy.

The protesters were pro-monarchy and acted emotionally, said
Mohamad Navab, a UCLA cardiology professor who translated the
protesters’ comments from Farsi into English.

Ebadi’s speech, an event sponsored by the UCLA
International Institute, was one of a series of visits to
university campuses that included Harvard and Stanford.

Establishing democracy is a historical and evolutionary process,
she added.

In her speech Ebadi stressed the need for peaceful transition to
democratic rule, calling upon U.S. forces to exit Iraq.

“Military attacking, even though with good intentions,
doesn’t create democracy. … Violence creates
violence,” she said through a translator.

Efforts to establish democratic rule, as in the case of Iraq,
should be administered through the United Nations, she said.

Ebadi added that she had hoped that the Iraqi people would have
overthrown Saddam Hussein.

In addition, in Iran, the first step is to amend the election
laws to allow people to vote without restrictions, she said.

While discussing democratic rule in Iran, Ebadi said that
democracy does not contradict Islam, and that the two can
coexist.

The acts of individual Muslims who perform violent acts, she
said, should not be taken as representative of the Islamic
religion.

Ebadi also stressed that peace is necessary for civilization to
progress.

“Its only in peace and serenity in which the tree of
knowledge bears fruit … (and) the vehicle of civilization will go
forward,” she said.

This desired peace is not the same as silence due to oppression,
but rather peace that comes from justice and democratic rule, Ebadi
said.

Ebadi also said that internal peace, the tranquility that comes
from living with goals and direction, must exist for external peace
to exist. It is up to educators to help their pupils search for
these goals, she said.

Ebadi’s comments about internal peace resonated closely
with Anusha Kalbasi, a second-year biochemistry student and the
education chair of the Iranian Student Group, who said that as a
young student he is looking for direction in life.

In her speech, Ebadi also discussed the rights of Iranian
women.

“The feminist movement in Iran today has depth.”
Educated women in Iran suffer from unemployment and discriminatory
laws, she said.

Ebadi’s comments about women’s rights echo the
sentiments of many Iranian women, said Ghazal Farhang, a third-year
biology student who listened to Ebadi’s speech.

In honor of her visit to UCLA, The Ebadi Organizing Committee in
Southern California and UCLA, among other organizations, also
hosted a gala dinner Saturday in Covel Commons.

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