One-woman machine who took on Iran's clerics


Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

Award will make her even more formidable

Dan De Luce in Tehran
Saturday October 11, 2003
The Guardian

She is small in stature but a force of nature in and out of the courtroom. Shirin Ebadi is a one-woman human-rights machine, inspiring students through her law faculty lectures, forcing judges to acknowledge contradictions in Iran's legal code and lobbying parliament to protect the rights of children born out of marriage.
She has already embarrassed the conservative clerics ruling Iran but yesterday's announcement from the Norwegian Nobel committee will make life more awkward for the defenders of the country's rigid laws. For Ms Ebadi and her colleagues the peace prize is like a shot in the arm for their efforts. "I think this prize gives me and Iranian people more courage to work for human rights and peace," she told the BBC in Paris.
What must have the hardliners worried is the following: Ms Ebadi has among the vast youth population, who see her as a courageous heroine standing up to a theocratic system. "I'm so happy," said Reza, a graduate student in Tehran. "I am proud to be an Iranian today."
With young women getting educated in unprecedented numbers, Ms Ebadi senses society is changing in ways that the conservative establishment does not understand. "Sixty-three per cent of entering university students are women. They see that the laws are not suitable for the conditions that are emerging," Ms Ebadi, who has two grown-up daughters, told the Guardian recently. "Because so many women are protesting against their conditions, things will have to improve."
Along with a several other lawyers, Ms Ebadi has launched a non-governmental organisation, the Centre for the Defenders of Human Rights, which will benefit from the Nobel prize of $1.3m (about £780,000). "She is one of the most active lawyers in Iran, working to promote human rights for women, children and all citizens," said her colleague, Mohammad Fayfzadeh. "She has performed brilliantly."
There was a time when the 56-year-old Ms Ebadi was fighting a lonely battle. After the 1979 revolution that toppled the regime of the shah, Ms Ebadi was told she would have to step down as Iran's first female judge. "The head of the court told me I could not work as a judge because I am a woman. He said it was forbidden by sharia law," she said.
Now prominent lawyers and MPs agree that women should serve as judges. "Many women are now working as legal advisers to judges. It's only a matter of time before we have female judges, " she said. "We have been fed so many things in the name of Islam and sharia law."
She uses sharia law, which forms the basis of Iran's laws, to argue that there is no legal foundation for discriminatory rules that give women an inferior status. She cites the writings of senior clerics and other areas of the law that have been freshly interpreted to adapt to modern circumstances.
In one case Ms Ebadi has fought against "blood money" provisions that put the value of a woman's life at half that of a man's in financial compensation. "I accept these cases to show what the consequences of inadequate, inappropriate laws can be," she said.
Through her lobbying in parliament and the courts, Ms Ebadi succeeded in her campaign to grant legal rights to children born outside of marriage though they are still denied the right to any inheritance. "I am still fighting to get that changed."
In a country where many dissidents have been discredited or forced underground, Ms Ebadi stands out for her single-minded commitment to human rights without ties to partisan politics or polemics.
She has spent time in solitary confinement and received a suspended sentence of 15 months for videotaping an interview with a former paramilitary. In the interview, the paramilitary described an assassination attempt against a member of the cabinet and other methods of repression.
Ms Ebadi, who works late hours in her office alone, acknowledges the threat she is facing. "Defending human rights in Iran has unavoidable dangers," she said.
The most chilling event for Ms Ebadi was when a document leaked out from the intelligence ministry that included names of intellectuals who had been murdered in mysterious circumstances. It was a list of political enemies apparently singled out for liquidation.
"I'm like any other human being, I experienced fear. It comes to you like hunger, you don't have a choice. But I have learned how to overcome this feeling and not let it interfere with my work."
She wears the head scarf or hejab as required by Iran's dress code and though she has no affection for it, she sees it as a low priority among a long list of women's grievances. "There are much more important issues that need to be addressed."
Ms Ebadi credits the Islamic revolutions strict dress code and segregation of the sexes at university with opening the door to emancipation. Once the universities became a place where a father could send his daughter without worrying about "moral corruption", society began to change, she said. "There is a saying that modernity is born on the street. And when a woman steps out on the street, she cannot be a traditional woman anymore."
Extracts from the Nobel committee's citation
It is a pleasure for the Norwegian Nobel committee to award the Peace prize to a woman who is part of the Muslim world, and of whom that world can be proud.
As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders. She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threats to her own safety. In an era of violence, she has consistently supported nonviolence. It is fundamental to her view that the supreme political power in a community must be built on democratic elections.
We hope that the people of Iran will feel joyous that for the first time in history one of their citizens has been awarded the Nobel Peace prize, and we hope 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 support.

To acknowledge – uznać, przyznawać
Awkward – niezręczny, niewygodny
Chill – sudden unpleasant feeling of fear
Circumstances – okoliczności, warunki
Commitment – zobowiązanie
Confinement – zamknięcie, pozbawienie wolności
Consistently – konsekwentnie
Contradictions – sprzeczności
Discriminatory – dyskryminujący
Emerging – pojawiający się
Formidable – budzący grozę
Grievance – żal, pretensja
Hardliner – dogmatyk
To heed – zwracać uwagę
Inadequate – nieadekwatny
Inappropriate – nieodpowiedni
Inheritance – dziedziczenie
To interfere – kolidować
Partisan – stronniczy
Rigid – sztywny, skostniały
Single-minded – posiadający jeden cel
Stature - postura
To topple – obalać
Unavoidable – nieunikniony


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