Iran 1: Nobel calling

October 13, 2003

CONTENTS

1. "A Noble Nobel," (By James Taranto, Best of the Web, October 10, 2003)
2. "Iranian Hard-Liners Allege Nobel Meddling" (By Ali Akbar Dareini, AP, October 11, 2003)
3. "Nobel calling: A prize for persistence and against prejudice" (London Times, editorial, October 11, 2003)
4. "Ayatollahs fume at Nobel prize for Iranian woman" (By Michael Theodoulou in Tehran, London Times, October 11, 2003)
5. "Nobel winner demands Islamic punishments cease" (ABC Australia, October 12, 2003)
6. "Iranian Reformers Hail Nobel Prize Winner" (AP, October 10)



[Note by Tom Gross]

This is one of a series of dispatches I am sending out about Iran this week. This dispatch concerns reaction to the awarding of the 2003 Nobel peace prize to Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights activist. Ebadi, 56, was Iran's first female judge and received her law degree from the University of Tehran. She was president of the city court of Tehran from 1975-1979, when she was forced to resign. Since the 1979 revolution she has been an activist for democracy and the rights of refugees, women and children. She is the first Muslim woman to win the award. "This is a happy day in Iranian history," said leading Iranian reformist Saeed Pourazizi. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a Paris-based group opposing the clerical establishment, called the Nobel award "an act against the religious fascism ruling Iran."

I attach six articles with summaries first:

SUMMARIES

1. "A Noble Nobel," (By James Taranto, Best of the Web, October 10, 2003) "...Sometimes the award goes to dictators or thugs (Le Duc Tho in 1973, Yasser Arafat in 1994) simply for making promises of peace. Sometimes, though, the Nobel Peace Prize goes to someone who deserves it--someone who uses nonviolent means in pursuit of worthy ends. Laureates in this class include the Martin Luther King (1964), Andrei Sakharov (1975), Lech Walesa (1983) and the Dalai Lama (1989). Happily, this year's laureate, Iranian human-rights activist Shirin Ebadi, falls into this category..." [The full version of this article is at the END of this email.]

2. "Iranian Hard-Liners Allege Nobel Meddling" (By Ali Akbar Dareini, The Associated Press, October 11, 2003). "Iran's powerful hard-liners on Saturday accused the Nobel committee of meddling in the country's internal affairs by awarding the annual peace prize to an Iranian dissident. "The Norwegian Nobel Committee, against its original objectives of promoting peace, has turned into a political tool in the hand of foreigners to interfere in the internal affairs of our country," Hamid Reza Taraqi, a member of the hard-line Islamic Coalition Society, said. On Saturday, Ebadi was the top story on the front page in the reformist dailies, but hard-line newspapers ignored the news... At a news conference Friday in Paris, where she appeared without a head scarf, Ebadi said she believes there is no conflict between human rights and the tenets of Islam ... "The prize means you can be a Muslim and at the same time have human rights," she said."

3. "Nobel calling: A prize for persistence and against prejudice" (London Times, editorial, October 11, 2003) "... the award comes at a time when the balance between democracy and totalitarianism in Iran is finely tipped. In its choice the Nobel committee has honoured an extraordinarily courageous human rights campaigner, and has made an important gesture of support for the reformers fighting the clerical hardliners within the Iranian regime... Shirin Ebadi is an inspiration to all those who complacently or even smugly conclude that there is nothing that they can do on their own. Threats and jail sentences have not deterred her from campaigning for human rights for women and children in one of the most repressive and patriarchal regimes in the world."

4. "Ayatollahs fume at Nobel prize for Iranian woman" (By Michael Theodoulou in Tehran, London Times, October 11, 2003). "Petite and softly spoken, Shirin Ebadi appears no match for the hardline ayatollahs who have accused her of trying single-handedly to undermine Iran's Islamic revolution. But the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize is made of steel. "Any person who pursues human rights in Iran must live with fear, but I have overcome my fear," Ms Ebadi, a lawyer and democracy activist, once told me in an interview behind the heavy doors of her book-lined office in central Tehran. On her desk stood a small replica of the Statue of Liberty...

However, the reaction of Tehran's hardline regime was much more muted, with the award relegated to the final item on the state-controlled television news. But it will be a huge source of pride to most Iranians and will be a boost for the country's embattled reformist camp... The award was "very good news for every Iranian," Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a close ally of Mr Khatami, said... Unlike Iranian critics of the system who spoke out against human rights abuses from the safety of exile in America, Mrs Ebadi campaigned bravely from within the country. She is also an expert in Islamic law and is religious. "I'm proud to be Iranian and I'll live in my country as long as I can," she said

... She also investigated a grisly spate of murders of writers and intellectuals in 1998 and 1999.

5. "Nobel winner demands Islamic punishments cease" (ABC Australia, October 12, 2003). "Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has called for an end to Islamic punishments in her country and their replacement by modern penalties "as in all democratic countries". "Stoning, (and) the amputation of limbs must be abolished," she told the French newspaper Le Monde... She is due to return to Tehran, where her award has aroused a mixed reaction, on Tuesday, according to a human rights organisation in Paris... "Let people be able to elect freely their representatives in Parliament," she said."

6. "Iranian Reformers Hail Nobel Prize Winner" (Associated Press, October 10, 2003). "The Nobel Peace Prize award for Iranian lawyer-activist Shirin Ebadi may do more than place her in the rarified company of history-shapers such as Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa. It could hand Iranian reformers what they've been craving: a leader with the clout to rattle the entrenched theocracy. "This prize doesn't belong to me only. It belongs to all people who work for human rights and democracy in Iran," Ebadi said in Paris, where she was attending a conference. At her news conference in Paris, Ebadi said Iran's most pressing human rights crisis is the lack of free speech, and she urged the government to immediately release prisoners jailed for expressing their opinions."

 



FULL ARTICLES

IRANIAN HARD-LINERS ALLEGE NOBEL MEDDLING

Iranian Hard-Liners Allege Nobel Meddling
By Ali Akbar Dareini
The Associated Press
October 11, 2003

Iran's powerful hard-liners on Saturday accused the Nobel committee of meddling in the country's internal affairs by awarding the annual peace prize to an Iranian dissident.

Shirin Ebadi won the 2003 prize on Friday for her human rights and democracy activism. She is the first Muslim woman to win the award.

"The prize is a support for secular movements and against the ideals of the 1979 Islamic revolution," said Hamid Reza Taraqi, a former lawmaker and member of the hard-line Islamic Coalition Society.

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee, against its original objectives of promoting peace, has turned into a political tool in the hand of foreigners to interfere in the internal affairs of our country," Taraqi said.

On Saturday, Ebadi was the top story on the front page in the reformist dailies, but hard-line newspapers ignored the news.

The hard-line daily Siyasat-e-Rooz gave priority on its front page to the discovery of an Iron Age-cemetery in Spain. Jomhuri-e-Eslami, another hard-line paper, gave the news a small space on page two: "Westerners give Ebadi Nobel peace prize."

Pro-reform figures were more gracious, and the administration of reformist President Mohammad Khatami congratulated Ebadi's win in a statement provided to the AP late Friday.

At a news conference Friday in Paris, where she appeared without a head scarf, Ebadi said she believes there is no conflict between human rights and the tenets of Islam.

"Therefore, the religious ones should also welcome this award," she said. "The prize means you can be a Muslim and at the same time have human rights."

Nobel committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said the decision was a message to the world.

"This is a message to the Iranian people, to the Muslim world, to the whole world, that human value, the fight for freedom, the fight for rights of women and children should be at the center," he said. "I hope the award of the peace to Ebadi can help strengthen and lend support to the cause of human rights in Iran."

The committee said Ebadi represents reformed Islam, and lauded her for arguing for a new interpretation of Islamic law which is in harmony with vital human rights such as democracy, equality before the law.

Ebadi, 56, was Iran's first female judge and received her law degree from the University of Tehran.

She was president of the city court of Tehran from 1975-1979, when she was forced to resign. Since the 1979 revolution she has been an activist for democracy and the rights of refugees, women and children.

As a lawyer, she represented families of writers and intellectuals killed in 1999, and worked to expose conspirators behind an attack by pro-clergy assailants on students at Tehran University in 1999.

Ebadi and another lawyer, Mohsen Rahami, were arrested in July 2000 for alleged links to a videotape that purportedly revealed ties between government officials and hard-line vigilantes. They were released from jail after three weeks, but later given suspended prison sentences and barred from practicing law for five years.

Ebadi's husband, Javad Tavassolian, told AP Saturday that the ban was overruled by the appeals court and never enforced.

 

NOBEL CALLING

Nobel calling
A prize for persistence and against prejudice
London Times, editorial
October 11, 2003

Yesterday's award of the Nobel Peace Prize to an Iranian, Shirin Ebadi, comes at a time when the balance between democracy and totalitarianism in Iran is finely tipped. In its choice the Nobel committee has honoured an extraordinarily courageous human rights campaigner, and has made an important gesture of support for the reformers fighting the clerical hardliners within the Iranian regime.

Today's world can seem desperately short of heroes and heroines. Away from the silver screen, individuals often feel hopelessly overwhelmed by apparently insoluble problems. Shirin Ebadi is an inspiration to all those who complacently or even smugly conclude that there is nothing that they can do on their own. Threats and jail sentences have not deterred her from campaigning for human rights for women and children in one of the most repressive and patriarchal regimes in the world. Mrs Ebadi has said that "any person who pursues human rights in Iran must live with fear from birth to death". She has learnt to conquer that fear in a way that should humble all those who live in easier places, and yet make excuses for inaction.

Mrs Ebadi has not only written and spoken about the need for change. She has also backed her campaign with action. She has defended dissidents whom few other lawyers dared to represent. She was the lawyer for families of the writers and intellectuals who were victims of Iran's serial murders in 1999 and 2000. She has worked tirelessly and successfully to reveal the names of those who orchestrated an attack on Tehran University in 1999 in which several students died.

Mrs Ebadi uses her legal expertise to argue persuasively for a new interpretation of Islamic law recognising democracy, equality before the law, religious freedom and freedom of speech. She and her fellow campaigners have won important reforms to Iranian family law. A husband can no longer automatically obtain a divorce without paying alimony, for example, but there is still much to do. Many women waive their right to alimony in order to keep their children, but they are allowed to keep them for only a few years: boys until the age of 2 and girls until the age of 7. This shocking rule is a dreadful indictment of Iran's conservative-controlled judiciary, the same judiciary that deposed Mrs Ebadi as Iran's first woman judge in 1979 on the ground that women were too irrational and emotional to handle such positions.

Her very persistence and success give some reason to hope that Iran's reformers will eventually break the stranglehold of the mullahs. The country's women are a force for change. They played an important part in the election of the reformist President Khatami in 1997, while 14 out of Iran's 270 MPs are now women, and more women than men are now entering university.

It should not really have taken a prize to bring Mrs Ebadi to public attention. And it is a shame that, until now, she has received so little recognition for her inspirational work. Yet the Nobel committee has used its power to the best possible effect: winning her the acclaim she deserves worldwide, and honouring her achievements, while at the same time sending an explicit message to Iran that no society should regard itself as civilized unless it respects the rights of women and children.

In honouring Mrs Ebadi the committee has demonstrated that reform is not the sole preserve of men or of politicians. Her experience proves that one person really can change lives, if only she has sufficient courage, persistence and skill. Her prize is richly deserved.

 

AYATOLLAHS FUME AT NOBEL PRIZE FOR IRANIAN WOMAN

Ayatollahs fume at Nobel prize for Iranian woman
From Michael Theodoulou in Tehran
London Times
October 11, 2003

Petite and softly spoken, Shirin Ebadi appears no match for the hardline ayatollahs who have accused her of trying single-handedly to undermine Iran's Islamic revolution. But the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize is made of steel.

"Any person who pursues human rights in Iran must live with fear, but I have overcome my fear," Ms Ebadi, a lawyer and democracy activist, once told me in an interview behind the heavy doors of her book-lined office in central Tehran. On her desk stood a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Ms Ebadi, 56, was Iran's first female judge, but lost the post after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Since then she has worked relentlessly to defend human rights, particularly those of women and children. She has taken on cases that other lawyers feared to touch and been imprisoned as a result of her work.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee made clear the award was aimed at boosting democratic reform across the Muslim world. "We hope that the prize will be an inspiration for all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the Muslim world and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support," it said.

Mrs Ebadi was in Paris when she was told that she had won the 800,000 prize. Appearing without a headscarf at a packed press conference, Mrs Ebadi professed herself stunned. "It's good for human rights in Iran, good for democracy in Iran and especially children's rights in Iran," she said. She lost no time demanding release of Iran's political prisoners. She also criticised the US occupation of Iraq and described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as "an unequal war of stones against weapons".

Human rights activists expressed delight at her achievement. Amnesty International said that the award "pays homage to all who battle against injustice".

However, the reaction of Tehran's hardline regime was much more muted, with the award relegated to the final item on the state-controlled television news. But it will be a huge source of pride to most Iranians and will be a boost for the country's embattled reformist camp, led by President Khatami. The award was "very good news for every Iranian", Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a close ally of Mr Khatami, said.

There was disappointment among Roman Catholics that the judges had passed over the Pope, who is unlikely to live long enough to get another chance. "I've nothing against this lady, but if there is anyone who deserves this year's Nobel Peace Prize it is the Holy Father," Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity leader and a fellow Pole, said.

The award comes at a time when Iran's powerful and unelected hardliners are in the ascendant over the country's embattled reform camp, led by Mr Khatami. Some 90 newspapers have been forced to close in recent years and scores of activists have been arrested and intimidated.

But Mrs Ebadi's sudden international recognition is deeply embarrassing for the hardliners who control the Iranian judiciary, of which she was so critical. They are likely to view her award as outsiders interfering in Iranian politics at a time when the country is under growing international pressure over its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"This prize carries the message that Europe intends to put further pressure on human rights in Iran as a political move to achieve its particular objectives," Amir Mohebian, an editor of the hardline Resalat newspaper, said.

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, former head of the judiciary, once preached in a sermon broadcast on national television that people such as Mrs Ebadi had been filling young people's heads with nonsense.

Mrs Ebadi bristles at the hardliners' claims that her work is providing ammunition for what they call the "global arrogance" of America. Unlike Iranian critics of the system who spoke out against human rights abuses from the safety of exile in America, Mrs Ebadi campaigned bravely from within the country. She is also an expert in Islamic law and is religious. "I'm proud to be Iranian and I'll live in my country as long as I can," she said.

The daughter of a famous judge during the Shah's time, Mrs Ebadi served as president of the city court of Tehran from 1975 to 1979. Her husband, Dr Rahim Ebadi, is an engineer who has never been involved in politics. One of their daughters is pursuing a postgraduate electrical engineering course in Canada, the other is a student in Iran.

In 2000, she defended two women prisoners of conscience who had been fighting for women's rights in Iran. She also investigated a grisly spate of murders of writers and intellectuals in 1998 and 1999.

Suspicion fell on extremist hardliners determined to put a stop to the more liberal climate fostered by Mr Khatami, who championed freedom of speech and the rule of law. The tactics backfired. The President ordered a thorough investigation into the killings, putting immense pressure on the hardline Intelligence Ministry, which announced that "rogue agents" were responsible. Qorbanli Dorri Najafabadi, the Intelligence Minister, resigned. "This was a great victory for Khatami and the forces of justice," Mrs Ebadi told me at the time.

But her investigations led to her arrest in June 2000, accused of producing and distributing a video that "disturbed public opinion". She spent three weeks in jail after a closed trial, was given a suspended 18-month sentence and banned from working as a lawyer for five years.

For many, Mrs Ebadi is regarded as an unofficial spokeswoman for Iranian women, who have been striving for a greater role in public life. Already they enjoy far more rights than their sisters in neighbouring US-backed Arab states. They have the vote, are allowed to drive and more women than men have passed university entrance examinations in recent years. Many even wear make-up.

Family law is another area where activists have called for reform. Because of campaigners such as Mrs Ebadi, a husband can no longer automatically obtain a divorce without paying hefty alimony. But women often waive alimony solely to keep their children.

 

NOBEL WINNER DEMANDS ISLAMIC PUNISHMENTS CEASE

Nobel winner demands Islamic punishments cease
ABC Australia
October 12, 2003

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has called for an end to Islamic punishments in her country and their replacement by modern penalties "as in all democratic countries".

"Stoning, (and) the amputation of limbs must be abolished," she told the French newspaper Le Monde in response to a question about what reforms she would like to see introduced in Iran.

Ms Ebadi, 56, a human rights lawyer, is the first Muslim woman to be awarded a Nobel peace prize and the first Iranian to receive any Nobel award.

She is due to return to Tehran, where her award has aroused a mixed reaction, on Tuesday, according to a human rights organisation in Paris, where she is staying at present and giving a round of interviews.

She told Le Monde that the Iranian Islamic Republic could not continue if it did not evolve and called for a change to the electoral law.

"The most important thing now is that the Government proposal for change to the law on elections be adopted. Let people be able to elect freely their representatives in Parliament."

If the proposals were blocked by the (conservative) Revolutionary Guards' Council "the Iranian people will boycott the elections due to take place in March, as they did last year with municipal elections".

Ms Ebadi said she supported the separation of the state and religion.

"The position I take is not against Islam. There are grand ayatollahs who want the separation of the state and religion."

As for the absence of democracy in Islamic countries, she said: "It is not the fault of Islam but of corrupt regimes in all Muslim countries which unfortunately use this pretext to justify their illegitimate government."

But she opposed the use of violence to change the type of government in Iran as well as any outside intervention.

 

IRANIAN REFORMERS HAIL NOBEL PRIZE WINNER

Iranian Reformers Hail Nobel Prize Winner
By Brian Murphy
The Associated Press
October 10, 2003

The Nobel Peace Prize award for Iranian lawyer-activist Shirin Ebadi may do more than place her in the rarified company of history-shapers such as Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa. It could hand Iranian reformers what they've been craving: a leader with the clout to rattle the entrenched theocracy.

Ebadi - who also is Iran's first female judge - was praised around the world as a courageous champion of political freedom after the Norwegian Nobel Committee honored her Friday for promoting peaceful and democratic solutions in the struggle for human rights.

The prize, announced Friday in Oslo, Norway, gave hope to the dispirited reformers challenging Iran's ruling clerics that the 56-year-old lawyer's newfound prominence may breathe life into their tired ranks.

"This prize doesn't belong to me only. It belongs to all people who work for human rights and democracy in Iran," Ebadi said in Paris, where she was attending a conference.

Ebadi, who was jailed for three weeks in 2000, has been a forceful advocate for women, children and those on the margins of society.

"As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, far beyond its borders," the Nobel committee said in its citation.

Reformers in Iran may now expect even more: a firebrand willing to directly battle the powerful theocracy in the model of other history-shaping Nobel laureates such as Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa.

"She is an international figure now," said Isa Saharqis, a prominent reformer and editor of the monthly political journal, Aftab, or Sun. "The conservatives cannot close their eyes to this."

Iranian state media waited hours to report the Nobel committee's decision - and then only as the last item on the radio news update.

It was not until late Friday that Iran issued an official statement, with government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh congratulating Ebadi for her prize.

"We hope more attention will be paid to the opinions of Mrs. Ebadi both inside and outside Iran more than before," he said.

"In the name of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I congratulate Mrs. Ebadi and all Iranian Muslim women," Ramezanzadeh told The Associated Press.

"We are happy that a Muslim Iranian woman has behaved, using the capabilities of the country in the fields of defending human rights, especially the rights of children and women, in a way that is appreciated by the peace-loving bodies around the world."

Ramezanzadeh said the government is expected to send a top official to attend Ebadi's welcome ceremony in Tehran on Tuesday.

At Ebadi's home, her family watched updates on international broadcasts via a satellite dish - technically illegal but recently tolerated as conservatives try to soften opposition.

"The reform movement is reborn," said Javad Tavassolian, her husband.

Ebadi's 79-year-old mother, Minu Yamini, said the Nobel announcement was just the third time she cried for her daughter. The first was her university graduation; the second was when she was jailed.

Ebadi, who is often sharply criticized by Iran's hard-liners and conservative clerics, was convicted in a closed trial three years ago of slandering government officials. She was given a suspended sentence following her three weeks in jail.

At her news conference in Paris, Ebadi said Iran's most pressing human rights crisis is the lack of free speech, and she urged the government to immediately release prisoners jailed for expressing their opinions.

"There is no difference between Islam and human rights," said Ebadi, who was not wearing the Islamic head covering required for women in Iran.

"Therefore, the religious ones should also welcome this award," she added. "The prize means you can be a Muslim and at the same time have human rights."

Iran's reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, has often said the same in his vision of "Islamic democracy." But Khatami has been discredited in the eyes of many mainstream reformers for his unwillingness to press for rapid change. More radical activists are also disheartened by the failure of street protests, including a violent but short-lived confrontation with authorities in June.

Now, reformers appear ready to look for direction and unity from Ebadi, who is scheduled to return to Iran on Tuesday. One of the first tests could be February parliamentary elections, which many reformers have suggested they would shun as a show of frustration.

"Today is a happy day in Iranian history," said Saeed Pourazizi, a close ally of Khatami. "I don't hide my deep feelings of happiness."

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a Paris-based group opposing the clerical establishment, called the Nobel award "an act against the religious fascism ruling Iran."

Although Iranian women serve in parliament and have far fewer limits than in other Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia, laws still impose some boundaries. An Iranian woman needs her husband's permission to work or travel abroad, and a man's court testimony is considered twice as important as that of a woman.

"The prize is an outcome of her relentless fight against inequality," said Azam Taleqani, leader of a women's rights group.

Ebadi served as Iran's first female judge in the waning years of the Western-backed monarchy, which was toppled by the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when she was forced to resign.

She turned her law office into a base for rights crusades and assaults on the establishment on issues such a persecution of dissidents and now-rare punishments such as stoning and flogging for social offenses.

She has taken cases dealing with domestic abuse and the rights of street children. Her writings have touched on rights for refugees, women and child laborers.

In 2001, Ebadi wrote in an Iranian magazine about her experience in jail - the loneliness of her confinement and the agony of recurring back pain and other ailments.

"I hate myself for being so weak," she wrote in the Payam Emrooz Monthly Review. "I try not to complain. I would just press my teeth against each other and would flex my fingers hard - my nails have turned blue because of the intensity of the pressure - but never would I groan."

Last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, former President Jimmy Carter, called Ebadi's work "an inspiration to people in Iran and around the world."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the award underscores "the importance of expanding human rights throughout the world."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan called her "a lifetime champion of the cause of human dignity and democracy."

This year's prize is worth $1.3 million. Speculation on winners this year had centered on former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Pope John Paul II.

Ebadi is the third Muslim to win. Yasser Arafat took the prize in 1994, sharing it with then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In 1978, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat shared the award with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for jointly negotiating peace between the two countries. Rabin and Sadat were assassinated after winning their prizes.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel's death. The other prizes will be given that day in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

 

A NOBLE NOBEL

A Noble Nobel
By James Taranto
Best of the Web Today
October 10, 2003

The announcement each year of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate provides a reminder that it is a moral error to view peace as an end in itself. Sometimes the award goes to dictators or thugs (Le Duc Tho in 1973, Yasser Arafat in 1994) simply for making promises of peace. Last year, when it went to Jimmy Carter, some members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said they meant it as a rebuke to President Bush's plan for the liberation of Iraq. They found intolerable the prospect of America waging war on Saddam Hussein, even though the alternative was to allow Saddam to continue waging war on his own people and threatening war against his neighbors.

Sometimes, though, the Nobel Peace Prize goes to someone who deserves it--someone who uses nonviolent means in pursuit of worthy ends. Laureates in this class include the Martin Luther King (1964), Andrei Sakharov (1975), Lech Walesa (1983) and the Dalai Lama (1989). Happily, this year's laureate, Iranian human-rights activist Shirin Ebadi, falls into this category.

Ebadi was her country's first female judge, but she was forced to step down after mad mullahs seized power in 1979. "She has since been an activist for democracy and the rights of refugees, women and children," reports the Associated Press. "As an attorney, she represented families of writers and intellectuals killed in 1999 and 2000, and worked to expose conspirators behind an attack by pro-clergy assailants on students at Tehran University in 1999." She spent three weeks behind bars after a 2000 arrest and "was banned from working as lawyer for five years. It was unclear whether the ban was still in effect."

Ebadi's Nobel citation cites her progressive view of Islam:

"Ebadi is a conscious Moslem. She sees no conflict between Islam and fundamental human rights. It is important to her that the dialogue between the different cultures and religions of the world should take as its point of departure their shared values.

It is a pleasure for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize to a woman who is part of the Moslem world, and of whom that world can be proud - along with all who fight for human rights wherever they live."

The citation adds: "During recent decades, democracy and human rights have advanced in various parts of the world. By its awards of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has attempted to speed up this process." By its liberation of Iraq, the U.S. has attempted precisely the same thing. President Bush will never win a Nobel Peace Prize, but it's nice to see the Norwegians joining him on the right side of history.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.