Shirin Ebadi at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California

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[On Tuesday, 14 October 2008, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s Nobel Peace Laureate and renowned lawyer for human and civil rights, spoke at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. One of the kind Baha’i readers of this site has provided a short report which appears below (in edited form). Ahang Rabbani]

I just wanted to share a short report on Nobel Peace prize winner Mrs. Shirin Ebadi’s speech on Tuesday evening, October 14. The event was not well publicized and only about 150 people had the opportunity to attend. The audience was mostly students and perhaps around 20 Iranians, of whom 5 were members of the Baha’i Faith. Mrs. Ebadi spoke in Persian and her remarks were translated into English.

After a prepared speech of about 50 minutes, she opened the floor to questions for the audience. I asked a question in which I commented on her courageous decision to defend the seven Baha’i leaders in Iran who have been imprisoned since March/May, and asked if she had any updates or had been able to meet with them.

Before answering my question, Mr. Ebadi spoke for some ten minutes on the background of the current situation of the Baha’is of Iran. She emphasized that the Baha’is do not have any civil rights and are not allowed to attend institutions of higher education. She then noted that while she serves as the lawyer for the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders and despite her repeated requests, she has not been given any access to the incarcerated Baha’is, nor allowed to speak with them by phone, nor been advised of the charges against her clients or their files.

At the conclusion of the meeting, I approached her and expressed my gratitude for her decision to defend the Baha’is. I also noted that when Iran’s official news agencies spread the false rumor that her daughter had become a Baha’i, it appeared that she had had considered this accusation an insult – at least that was the way that the reports were being shared in the United States.

She explained that first, the punishment for a Muslim who becomes a Baha’i is death. She further remarked, “I announced that this accusation by the national media was a calumny and lie. By that I meant that they are saying something that’s not true. For instance, if someone was to say to you that you are wearing a black jacket instead of a brown jacket, that is considered a false statement, since most clearly your jacket is brown.”

She then added, “If I had any issue with the Baha’is, I would not have agreed to defend them.”

At the end, as we were departing the hallway, she asked me to be sure to convey her regards to all the Iranians in the area, including the Baha’is.

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