Ebadi and a Dangerous Message

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As part of the Iranian regime’s confrontation with human rights activists and advocates, ‎the recent harsh attacks on Nobel Peace laurette Shirin Ebadi have made it pay dearly. ‎

Silence on the part of many political activists who have focused their entire energy on a ‎victory in the upcoming presidential election is questionable. I say “questionable,” ‎because it is questionable why the Iranian government has chosen to impose such a cost ‎on itself, given Shirin Ebadi’s reputation outside of Iran and the influence that her ‎speeches and coverage have on swaying global opinion. This has meaning. ‎

The first analysis that comes to mind explaining the state’s costly move is that the closure ‎of the Center for Defense of Human Rights and attacks on its founder, Shirin Ebadi, are ‎serous warnings to other human rights defenders in Iran. That includes lawyers active at ‎the Center, who, more than any other group, have voluntarily defended the rights of civil ‎society, human rights and other political activists in recent years. Many people obtain ‎information about the cases of political, social, civil, human rights, women’s rights, ‎students, workers and teachers union activists from attorney reports and interviews. ‎Many civil society activists relied on their assistance when in danger and were certain ‎that, in the case any unfortunate event happens, there is a lawyer who will speak and seek ‎justice on their behalf. ‎

We all know that volunteering to defend people accused of “acting against national ‎security,” is no small feat. One cannot forget what happened to critical dissidents during ‎the dangerous and tumultuous days of the chain murders in the 1990s. We also know ‎that, in such circumstances, representing a client can have dire consequences for the ‎attorney. Therefore, the systemic confrontation and pressure on a group of lawyers who ‎volunteer to represent political and ideological prisoners is not simply to confront them ‎but is an attempt to isolate all activists who rely on their representation. Through this, a ‎group of activists is naturally deprived of the right to representation by attorneys who ‎themselves are under security pressures, and another group, thinking that having ‎attorneys who are themselves under pressure can be more costly, choose isolation or less ‎activist lawyers. Either way, the person harmed the most is the defendant who is not ‎given the right to be represented by a lawyer who believes in equality and human rights. ‎

But the other dimension to recent attacks is a warning signal about the “behavior” of the ‎Iranian regime, especially in light of the international prestige of Shirin Ebadi, winner of ‎the Nobel Peace Prize. Many of us – at least those in Iran – always thought that Ebadi ‎was secure, and was backed by so much international prestige that when she reported ‎physical threats against her and family members’ lives, the Iranian president would be ‎forced to promise that she would be safe (something that was done in April 2008, after ‎threats were made on Shirin Ebadi’s life.) ‎

Many of us had the good feeling that the Center headed by Ebadi, published quarterly ‎reports covering human rights violations in our country; and that Ebadi occassionally ‎held a press conference at the Center and challenged human rights violators. But today… ‎she herself is subject to the most dangerous attacks. ‎

Attacking Ebadi means that the Iranian regime is ready to pay the highest price for ‎confronting human rights defenders in Iran. Confronting her is confronting everyone ‎who – whether individually or as part of a group – has entered that circle in society which ‎challenges discrimination and inequality. This is a serious threat that must be responded ‎to. If the human rights society in Iran is unable to defend itself, how can it claim to ‎defend others? ‎

But we have a word for those politicians who claim to support human rights and civil ‎society, but have failed to react appropriately to recent threats. How can they hope to ‎earn the trust and votes of the public when they remain silent in face authoritarian attacks ‎on human rights defenders? ‎

Source: http://www.roozonline.com/english/archives/2009/01/ebadi_and_a_dangerous_message.html


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