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Growing Disenchantment With Ebadi-By Banafsheh and Elio

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 6:06 am    Post subject: Growing Disenchantment With Ebadi-By Banafsheh and Elio Reply with quote

Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily

Volume XXII, No. 122 Thursday, July 29, 2004
Founded in 1972. Produced at least 200 times a year

Special Report

Growing Disenchantment With Iranian Nobel Laureate Ebadi, Rôle as Apologists for Ruling Clerics Emerging

By Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi and Elio Bonazzi.1

Analysis. The Iranian clerical leadership has benefited consistently in late 2003 and through 2004 from efforts by Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi to present an acceptable face to the world of the country’s revolutionary Administration. She had been hailed internationally, initially, as an advocate of human rights in Iran. However, by supporting the clerics, Ms Ebadi’s credibility inside Iran, and among the expatriate Iranian opposition, has essentially evaporated. The international media and political arena has, however, yet to note the reality that Ms Ebadi has become a more open apologist for the clerics, and how Iranian society has reacted to her new international celebrity.

Shirin Ebadi, the winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, was never an activist for human rights in Iran; she was known as a lawyer who advocated children’s rights in Iran, and she represented the cases of several political dissidents in Islamic courts. Significantly, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — which is decided by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, not the Swedish Nobel Committee which is the “parent” Nobel charity — on the eve of the major scandal involving Norway’s Statoil in which the Norwegian company was accused of having paid large amounts of money as a bribe to the son of the former Iranian clerical Pres. Abbas Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafasnjani’s son has for some years been the principal broker of business deals for the Iranian clerical leadership.

When, on October 10, 2003, news broke that lawyer Shirin Ebadi had won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, Iranian dissidents living both inside and outside Iran rejoiced. They were convinced they had finally found an Iranian version of Polish union leader and human rights activist (and later President) Lech Walesa, a recognized leader able to advance their cause in an international arena. Initially, Ms Ebadi, who was in Paris when she heard of her Nobel Prize award, gave the impression she welcomed her new rôle. Her comments were that the Nobel Prize did not belong to her, but to all the people who work for human rights and democracy in Iran. On October 12, 2003, Iranian Pres. Hojjat ol-Eslam (Ali) Mohammad Khatami-Ardakani, warned Shirin Ebadi “not to abuse her new status”, while the Administration hardliners accused the Nobel committee of “meddling in Iran’s internal affairs”. An Iranian official, Taraqi, speaking on behalf of the hard-line Islamic Coalition Society, declared: “The prize is a support for secular movements and against the ideals of the 1979 Islamic revolution.”

Ms Ebadi was interviewed by the French press, and appearing in public without the mandatory veil, pointed out that “instead of telling Muslim women to cover their heads, we should tell them to use their heads. We must not accept anything that is rejected by our reason” Ebadi also reiterated her support for a secular system, stating that in case the present cleric rulers did not come out with the idea of change, it would be imposed on them. Upon her return to Tehran, she was welcomed at the airport by a huge crowd cheering her and chanting anti-Administration slogans. On that occasion she demanded freedom for all political prisoner of the Government.

A few days later, towards the end of October 2003, Ms Ebadi completely altered her stance against the theocratic Administration. There is, at this point, no way of knowing if she suddenly changed her stance because of physical threats against her or as a result of pressure from her brother (who is a high-ranking deputy and advisor to Iran’s First Vice-President, Dr Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi), or if she simply decided to make the change for personal, short-term benefits. Whatever the reason, she gradually assumed a rôle which can be described as a sort of unofficial ambassador for the theocratic establishment, a presentable figurehead which the mullahs use to convince Western policymakers that dialogue and engagement, rather than sanctions and confrontation, should be preferred when dealing with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

A few weeks after her return to Tehran, contradicting what she had said in Paris, Ms Ebadi stunned the Iranian opposition — which had relied on her as one of the possible leaders of the democratic movement for the secularization of Iran — by siding with the theocrats in condemning France’s decision to forbid women from wearing the hijab, the controversial head-covering item which has become the symbol of Islamic radicalism.

Still, Iranian opposition elements were prepared to give Ms Ebadi the benefit of the doubt, hoping that her misstep was due to her inexperience in handling her new status and responsibilities as the champion for democracy and secularism. That hope was quickly dashed, however. On December the 10, 2003, Ms Ebadi was in Oslo, to formally accept the Nobel Prize. Iranian dissidents worldwide were still confident in Ms Ebadi, expecting her to expose the human rights violations of the theocratic Iranian Government, denouncing the stoning of women, the public executions, cutting off hands, legs, tongues and removal of eyeballs, systematic whipping and flogging of people, child sex rings and sex slaves for sale in the Gulf nations, the systematic assassination of any form of opposition, and the huge number of political prisoners, which reliable sources estimate to be in the neighborhood of 30,000 (12 percent of whom are either HIV positive or have full-blown AIDS).

Ms Ebadi, however, disappointed the Iranian opposition. In her Oslo acceptance speech, Ms Ebadi appeased the Islamist leadership in Tehran by denouncing the alleged human rights violations perpetrated by the US in Guantanamo against Taliban prisoners. She went even further, attacking Israel and accusing the UN Security Council of double standards, because UN resolutions against Israel are not enforced, while “in the past 12 years, the state and people of Iraq were twice subjected to attack, military assault, economic sanctions, and, ultimately, military occupation”.

Iranian opposition elements, inside Iran and abroad, were angered and provoked by her speech, particularly when she noted: “Since the advent of Islam, Iran’s civilization and culture have become imbued and infused with humanitarianism, respect for the life, belief and faith of others, propagation of tolerance and avoidance of violence, bloodshed and war!”

Iranian opposition leaders noted that Islam had been violently imposed on Persians by Arab conquerors. Iranians had responded by creating Shi’ism to differentiate themselves from the Sunni Arabs and since early on they try to “adapt” Islam to their mystical nature, giving Islam a transcendentalist twist, embodied in Sufism. Until the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Muslims in Iran lived peacefully alongside Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Bahá’ís. With the arrival in power in Iran in 1979 of Ruhollah Khomeini, all other religions were either banned or severely restricted and their followers persecuted. As one Iranian opposition figure noted: “Perhaps Ms Ebadi should explain to the families of the students assaulted by Islamic militia in their dormitories at the Tehran University in 1999 what rôle the Islamic ‘humanitarianism and respect for life and tolerance’ played when their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters were killed by Islamist militants and what kind of ‘tolerance and avoidance of violence’ is behind the detainment of approximately 30,000 political prisoners, who live in sub-standard conditions in the various prisons of the Islamic regime, starting with Evin, the major political prison in Tehran where Ms Ebadi’s friends and even herself are/were jailed.”

After her acceptance speech, Ms Ebadi toured Europe encouraging European nations (specifically France) to deal with the Islamic Republic using dialogue and diplomacy, rather than economic sanctions. This is exactly what most Europeans wanted to hear. For years, Iranian dissidents demanded the immediate cessation of business dealings between the EU and the Islamic Republic, hoping to debilitate the theocratic Government and to ultimately provoke its fall. Europeans have disregarded this plea by Iranian dissidents, legitimizing the Islamic Republic in exchange for cheap oil and gas. Now that even one of the most prominent “human rights activist” advocates engagement and dialogue as the “best weapons” to promote democracy in Iran, European Governments feel that there is nothing wrong in perpetuating the Islamist rule in Iran through economic exchange.

Starting in August of 2003, Iranian dissidents began organizing a mass boycott of the February 20, 2004, national elections for the Parliament (Majlis). The low turnout to the ballots was specifically geared toward penalizing the so-called reformists around Pres. Hojjat ol-Eslam (Ali) Mohammad Khatami-Ardakani, marking a significant victory for the opposition. Iranians were finally able to demonstrate to Western observers that Khatami and his self-so-called reformists had lost their appeal, reiterating the Iranian public’s aspiration for a complete “regime change”.


Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, February 23, 2004: Iranian Elections Reinforce Short-Term Clerical Grip; Heighten Political Instability.

Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, March 2, 2004: Credibility and Legitimacy of Ruling Iranian Clerics Unraveling as Pressures Mount Against Them; The Source of Clerical Ruling Authority Now Being Questioned

A few weeks before the elections, Ms Ebadi sided again with the Islamic rulers, urging Iranians to vote and not to renounce the election. Noone listened. After the elections, however, she said that she did not vote, but sanctioned the official ballot turnout figures fabricated by the clerical leadership, which claimed that 50 percent of the public had cast their vote. Reliable sources however estimate that the real turnout was around 10 to 15 percent nationwide, and much less in Tehran.

More recently, Ms Ebadi made a highly-publicized appearance at the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC. On May 26, 2004, the World Bank granted Iran a loan in the amount of $359-million. According to The Washington Post, Ms Ebadi began by objecting to the World Bank’s practice of giving loans to corrupt dictatorships with serious human rights violations. But when a World Bank executive noticed that a reporter from World Press Freedom Day was present, Ms Ebadi was whisked away behind closed doors to continue her conversation with World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn. When she reemerged from that meeting, her tone had softened greatly. In theory, the loan was to help the Government of Iran improve housing conditions for poor and middle-income urban neighborhoods as well as expand access to clean water and coverage of sanitation services.

In practice, however, as the recently discovered frauds related to the UN oil-for-food program in the neighboring Iraq demonstrated, there is no transparent mechanism in place in Iran to guarantee that those funds would be effectively allocated to improving housing and water access. Observers of the financial practices undertaken since 1979 by the ruling clerics in Iran note that it is likely that once again that money will ultimately end up in the deep pockets of the mullahs. In early June 2004, however, a highly-circulated petition objecting to the World Bank’s confirmation of the loan was created and sent out by Dr Mohammad Parvin of the Mehr Foundation for Human Rights. The New York Times, which has been one of the main western media promoters of the Islamic Republic since 1979, then provided Ms Ebadi a pulpit to conveniently exculpate herself; in her Op-ed she essentially states that if the World Bank gave the funds to the Iranian clerics, then it was their decision and that she had nothing to do with it.

Ms Ebadi was in 2004 in the United States for almost two months, speaking at various Universities and other events created by a small minority of Iranian expatriates who actively advocate business dealings and normalization of relations with the clerical Government of Iran. Ms Ebadi appearances in public venues were consistently confronted with the anger of a significant number of Iranians who openly advocate “regime change” for their motherland; they have come to view Ms Ebadi as yet another device created by the Islamist regime to delay its unavoidable demise.

Just before her arrival to the United States, Ms Ebadi spoke in Toronto, where hundreds of Iranians made reservations to attend her speech and then failed to show up, leaving a large part of the room noticeably empty. Ms Ebadi endured confrontations with angry crowds of Iranians of all ideological stances (communists, social democrats, monarchists, Nationalist Front, etc.) when she was in California, at Stanford and UCLA. Towards the end of her stay in the US, she provided an excuse to cancel her appearance at a fundraising gala organized by IAPAC (Iranian-American Political Action Committee), a highly-controversial association of wealthy, US-naturalized Iranians who promote engagement for trade with the Islamic Republic. IAPAC is opposed by the majority of expatriate Iranians who advocate isolating the clerical leadership from financial dealings with the West. Several days before the proposed IAPAC event, Iranian media outlets urged expatriates to hold Ms Ebadi accountable for accepting the invitation of such an organization. Sensing that she would have to face yet again an angry crowd, Ms Ebadi decided to forfeit the event.

While case workers from Reporter Without Borders and Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Leah Whitson describe the Human Rights situation of Iran as: “Like the Dead in Their Coffins: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran”, Ms Ebadi blatantly told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Monday, June 7, 2004, and at The Asia Society of New York on June 8, 2004, that “The situation of human rights in Iran compared with 24 or 25 years ago is much better!” The human rights violations under the Shah were never anywhere near what has been perpetrated by the mullahs. Ayatollah Taheri, the Imam of Esfahan who resigned in the Summer of 2002, condemning the coterie of the clerical leaders, admitted two years ago that the numbers and information regarding the political prisoners during the Shah was unequivocally exaggerated, and that what the mullahs had done could not in any way, shape or form be compared to the political limitations under the Shah.

The Islamist leadership of Iran has been able not only to neutralize the the intent of Nobel Peace Prize awarded to promote democracy in Iran, but by co-opting Shirin Ebadi and making her the champion of its cause, the leadership has acquired new strength and a political asset to spend on the international arena. Pres. Khatami is now discredited and weak; it is likely that Ms Ebadi could replace him as the “presentable” face of the clerics, an attractive façade which the Islamist rulers could offer to the West while trying to retain power.

It is true that Ms Ebadi, with the advent of the Islamic Republic, was forced to step down from her post as justice president of the city court of Tehran; under strict Islamic law a woman cannot judge men. But it is also true that in another strict Islamic country, Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was elected Prime Minister in 1988, the first woman ever to head the government of an Islamic state. The mullahs of Iran constantly strive to achieve international legitimacy and desperately need economic cooperation with the West and mainly with European nations. There has been some speculation in the Iranian community about a potential candidature of Ms Ebadi to the post of President after Khatami’s mandate expires in 2005. But the way Shi’ism has been established in Iran with the advent of the Islamic Republic, with its reliance on the Marja’eh Taqleed model, which literally means “Reference Point of Imitation”, irrevocably excludes a woman, no matter how accomplished and internationally acclaimed she may be, from becoming an officially relevant figure in the Islamic hierarchy.

Ayatollah Ali Hoseini Khamene’i, Iran’s Velayateh Faqeeh (Supreme Leader), is the ultimate point of reference and imitation. Lesser ayatollahs, according to Islamic seniority, also share the title of Marja’eh Taqleed; giving in and accepting a woman as the most representative figure of the Islamic Republic would inexorably tarnish the image of being the “point of reference” of the entire Islamic hierarchy, sending the message that religious integrity can be sacrificed on the altar of political gains. The theocratic establishment in Tehran does not seem to be prepared to pay this high price on the internal front in exchange for a more presentable façade on the international arena.

Ms Ebadi has managed to squander all the initial enthusiastic support shown by Iranian communities living both abroad and inside Iran. She left the US without publicizing the date of her arrival to Tehran, to avoid facing a crowd which would have shown her a very different welcome from the one she received after she won the Nobel Prize. She found her home covered with graffiti accusing her of betrayal.


1. Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, a native of Iran, is a New York-based writer focusing on Iranian political affairs, and Elio Bonazzi is an Italian-born political scientist, also based in New York.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ebadi is no Walensa the same way Khatami was no Gorbachev.

What she is doing is to shamefully help Mullah$ rake in more cash from the Filthy Greedy European Neo Coloniliat$t$, and to legitimise them internationally as they engage in the worst oppression of recent years to destroy the opposition.

What Shirin Ebadi is doing is shameful, disgraceful and disgusting. If her life is being threatened she has the option of not saying anything or remainiang out of the limelight. But she would rather promote the depsised Totalitarian regime of the Murderous Mullah$, for the financial gain of herself and her family!

Over millions of dollars were collected for Bam, and the majority of that money has not helped the victims 6 months after the fact. Western correspondents, horrified by the scope of corruption of the officials and oppression of the victims have been expelled from Iran for reporting on this human tragedy and shameful theft of humanitarian aid. And they think a penny of the World Bank money will got to the poor? Iran has Islamic Charities and Foundations for the poor with assets in the Billions, yet Iran has over one million homeless street children. Charities with assets exceding $100 Billion dollars can't even supply these kids with shleter and food, you think they will spend a penny of the world bank loan, which is a high debt for the Iranian people to pay off over time, on clean drinking water for the poor Laughing

Whats disgusting is how Ebadi is collecting money for the filthy Murderous Mullah$ now, and promoting them while they carry out the most horrific internal oppression imaginable. Its disgusting! What she is doing is simply disgusting!

Shame on Shirin Ebadi, she makes me sick!
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2004 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And she poses for pictures as though she is so sad and distraught.. The STUPID womane had her opportunity to give major contribution to the Iranian people when she had so much publicity earlier on and she didn't... She is a traitor just like all the other Mullahs and those who have betrayed the Iranian culture - persian essence..

Down with Shirin Ebadi, her European Lovers, and the Mullahs - down with them all
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