Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi on the situation in Iran
Published in “Badische Zeitung” (BZ) on January 11 2009
Source (German): http://ow.ly/VbWY
The conflict in Iran is coming to a head: The state confronts demonstrators by brutal force. BZ editor Annemarie Rösch discussed the situation with Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Tehran.
BZ: Ms Ebadi, when will you return to Iran?
Ebadi: Iran is my base. My husband is there, my family. Due to the difficult situation, there is currently more that I can do for my country from abroad. If I return to Iran, everything can happen to me. You see, my sister was arrested just recently. They have taken my sister hostage, because none of my children is in Iran. My husband also is in danger in Iran. However, I will not do what they want me to do, I will not be silent.
BZ: Do you consider yourself a member of the opposition?
Ebadi: I am a human rights activist. I must not side with any one position. I do not belong to any of the opposition groups.
BZ: Currently it looks like protests are growing. What is your opinion on that?
Ebadi: Meanwhile, there are protests even in minor cities. People continue to take to the streets, knowing that they might even be killed during a demonstration. This shows how serious they are about their protest against the regime. On the other hand, much less people followed Ahmadinejad’s invitation to join the pro-government rallies – even though Ahmadinejad’s people rewarded them for their participation.
BZ: Do the protesters want the regime to be reformed from within, or do they prefer to abolish it?
Ebadi: Currently, the slogan is still “Death to the dictator”. This means that the protesters above all want Ahmadinejad to resign. Their peaceful protests show that they want a peaceful reform from within – for now. However, they might eventually start chanting “death to the system”. The regime should listen to the demands of the Iranians. If they don’t, the protests will turn more radical.
BZ: Can the revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei actually still afford to cling to president Ahmadinejad, whom the opposition accuses of electoral fraud?
Ebadi: Right now there is no indication that Khamenei is ready to abandon Ahmadinejad. However, everything is possible in Iran.
BZ: What is your interpretation of the aggressive actions of the regime against the opposition?
Ebadi: Khamenei and Ahmadinejad both know how dangerous the situation is for them. That’s why there is an increasing extent of violence. The more a regime feels threatened, the more it will resort to violence – everywhere in the world.
BZ: Allegedly, Ahmadinejad has expanded his influence on the clergy. What is your view on that?
Ebadi: Ayatollah Khamenei still controls everything. The question is, however, how long this will last.
BZ: What is the role of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards who so brutally confront the protesters?
Ebadi: Well, what is striking is that Ahmadinejad has given the Revolutionary Guards access to many key positions. Today even the Chief Prosecutor has an aide who is a member of the Revolutionary Guards. That the military has such an important position in the judiciary is unprecedented.
BZ: Is it possible that the regime of the clergy will be replaced by a military dictatorship?
Ebadi: As I said, currently everything is possible in Iran – even a military dictatorship.
BZ: Could Iran become the first democratic state in the Near East?
Ebadi: I wish that. I hope that negotiations will take place between the regime and the opposition before violence escalates. Since the Iranians still remember very well how painful the revolution 30 years ago was for them, how many people died, I still hope for a reconciliation of the different political camps.
BZ: What kind of democracy do the protesters have in mind?
Ebadi: Many probably wish for a democratic system where state and religion are separate. This is what I personally would prefer as well. However, this separation is not the most important thing for me. There are secular states that do not deserve to be called democracies. What Iran needs is truly free elections. How exactly this democracy will look like in the end needs to be negotiated.