Shirin Ebadi:”It’s impossible to suppress a nation forever”


News broadcast “Tagesthemen” on TV channel ARD on July 14, 2009

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Today, one month after the protests in Iran begun, merely few protestors dare to take to the streets – too big are their fears of reprisal. But the opposition movement is not over, says Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi in an interview with “tagesthemen”. Her Center for Human Rights had already been closed down by the regime in December. As for her, she left Iran one day prior to the elections and is now staying in Bonn/Germany at the invitation of the German international broadcaster “Deutsche Welle”.

Tom Buhrow interviewed the human rights activist about the situation of the detainees, her own expectations towards the West and herself facing death threats. Ebadi announced that she is going to defend the murdered student Neda.

tagesthemen: Ms Ebadi, only few people continue to openly protest in Iran. Is this the end of the movement?

Ebadi: This movement is not over. However, it has changed shape, because the force of the government is strong. Now the people show their protest by chanting “Allah-o Akbar” from out of their windows at ten in the night. The mothers whose children were murdered, abducted or detained, wear black and hold silent gatherings in parks every Saturday at 7 p.m. There are other forms of protest now.

tagesthemen: You mentioned thousands of detainees, among them are many of your fellow campaigners. What condition are they in?

Ebadi: They have no permission to see their families, and they do not have access to lawyers. We don’t know about their mental and physical condition, and we are worried. As far as my colleagues are concerned, right now Mr Abdolfattah Soltani and Mr Dadkhah are imprisoned and held in solitary confinement. They are deprived of their rights.

tagesthemen: What are your expectations towards the West in light of this determination, one could also call it brutality, of the regime?

Ebadi: I do hope that the West in his negotiations will, in addition to questions of nuclear energy, address the violations of human rights and the use of force by the government as well. That means the West should not just have in mind their own security, but should also pay attention to the fate of the Iranian people.

tagesthemen: What is your conclusion so far, what will remain of the protest movement?

Ebadi: The demands for democracy – that’s what has remained of the movement. The people have the goal of establishing a democratic system. Women, workers, students – all classes of the Iranian society want it. They want democracy.

tagesthemen: The unity among the protestors and the self-confidence of the opposition is one thing – though the regime is still maintaining a pretty firm position.

Ebadi: Yes, that’s true, But if the people stay unified in their demands, the government will eventually be forced to meet those demands. It is impossible to suppress a nation forever.

tagesthemen: The family of the murdered protestor Neda wishes that you go to Tehran and defend their case. Are you going to to that?

Ebadi: Yes, I will most readily do that. For 17 years I have exclusively been defending victims of human rights violations, and political prisoners. And I am also going to defend Neda, the innocent victim who was killed in the streets, with pride.

tagesthemen: You yourself have been a target of multiple death threats. Do you fear for your live in Iran?

Ebadi: I was more than once threatened to be killed. Those who threaten me, though, have a certain intention. They want to stop me from keeping up my work. However, I have no intention of doing anything that would please my enemies.

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