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Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi on Democracy Now!

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Human rights is an issue very important to me, particularly so in some places. For example, I keep a closer eye on what is going on in Iran than in other places in the world – including, sometimes, my metaphorical backyard.

Yesterday, Shirin Ebadi granted Democracy Now! a short interview. After having spent the last couple of days talking to colleagues and friends about Iran, I found it interesting that many of the answers to their questions were in this interview – which I have already sent to them. So I thought of sharing some excerpts with you.

Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi on Threats to Iranian Rights, from Within and Abroad

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AMY GOODMAN: What exactly do you feel that Barack Obama should do right now? He has talked about direct dialogue with Iran. At what levels do you think the dialogue has to happen?

SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] I think that the dialogue should take place at three levels: at the level of the presidents of both countries, at the level of the parliaments of both countries, and at the level of the civil society of both countries. And I think that the negotiations should bear in mind the interests of the people of both countries, not only the interests of a few companies. In the past, in 1953, the presidents of both countries, or the heads of both countries, spoke, but there the dialogue resulted in a few big oil companies coming to Iran.

(…)

AMY GOODMAN: This is the thirtieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution. You were a judge, before the revolution, under the Shah; you are no longer. Talk about the state of your country and of women’s rights, in particular.

SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] Over 65 percent of the university students in Iran are female. Women exist in all levels of government. They work in all levels of government. And they are present in the society. However, unfortunately, after the revolution, discriminatory laws have been passed against women. And I want to give you a few examples of these discriminatory laws. The life of a woman is worth half of that of a man; and therefore, if there is an automobile accident and a man and a woman are involved and their injuries are the same, the compensation paid to the woman is half of that paid to the man. Men can marry four wives. They can divorce their wives without an excuse. [Testimony] of two women in court equals [testimony] of one man. So these are the discriminatory laws I’m talking about.

Read, watch or listen to the full interview here.

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