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A Talk About Human Rights in Iran: Shirin Ebadi Visits M-A

Shirin Ebadi, Iranian lawyer, human rights activist, and former judge spoke at M-A on Wednesday, March 9. She is the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and has written the books “Iran Awakening” and her most recent “Until We Are Free.” Persis Karim, professor in the Department of English & Comparative Literature at San Jose State University, interviewed Ebadi about her experiences as an activist for human rights in Iran.

“you should not let the voice of freedom be silenced in Iran” -Shirin Ebadi.

Ebadi’s bravery in the face of a government that has tried to silence her with death threats, blackmail, and exile, inspires many. When asked about how she deals with constant death threats among other things, Ebadi said that “what counts is that you have faith in your goal, and so (…) then you can tolerate all the difficulties. On the other hand, I knew that all the threats that I received and all the persecution and harassment all had one purpose, that was to silence me, and I am never ready to do something that my enemy desires.”

One of the audience members later said, “I really liked the part where she’s just talking about if you have faith in the path that you’ve taken, then the obstacles and things that you’ll hit, even though they’re difficult, you can overcome them. That was my favorite part.”

One of the audience members later said, “I really liked the part where she’s just talking about if you have faith in the path that you’ve taken, then the obstacles and things that you’ll hit, even though they’re difficult, you can overcome them. That was my favorite part.”

Ebadi does not give her persecutors the power to control her life with fear and instead decides to find humor and joy in life.

“My hope is that the young people of Iran will build Iran in the future” -Ebadi

Throughout Ebadi’s harrowing experiences, she has managed to be courageous and to keep a sense of humor. Ebadi explained that “After 2009 when I could not go back to my country, I decided to watch a comedy at least half an hour every night before going to sleep, and I laughed and I laughed. You cannot imagine how that helps you. I want to recommend to all of you to laugh.”

Nessa Fakrai, an M-A sophomore, noticed Ebadi’s positive perspective in life, saying, “I think that Dr. Ebadi’s a really empowered lady and I think that her outlook on life even after all of the troubles that she’s experienced is really inspiring.”

Shirin Ebadi maintained a sense of humor throughout her talk.

During the talk, Ebadi urged youth to take action to change the relations between the United States and Iran, to support women who are fighting for equal rights in Iran and “to be the voice of those who are in prison.”

Ebadi elaborated by conveying that “these people are in prison because the government wants to silence them. But you should not let the voice of freedom be silenced in Iran.”

Ebadi’s faith in the youth of Iran provides a call to action for younger people. Ebadi’s political action and activism embolden the youth to follow in her footsteps and Luca Johnson, a freshman at M-A, expressed his hopes for the future, stating that “one point that stood out from Dr. Ebadi’s talk was how the young people of Iran need to take action to change the future and I hope that the government will continue opening up as it has with the lifting of the sanctions, ending of the nuclear program and that the next generation will lead to a more democratic, open, free state that is in more contact with the West.”

Ebadi elaborated by conveying that “these people are in prison because the government wants to silence them. But you should not let the voice of freedom be silenced in Iran.”

Ebadi’s faith in the youth of Iran provides a call to action for younger people. Ebadi’s political action and activism embolden the youth to follow in her footsteps and Luca Johnson, a freshman at M-A, expressed his hopes for the future, stating that “one point that stood out from Dr. Ebadi’s talk was how the young people of Iran need to take action to change the future and I hope that the government will continue opening up as it has with the lifting of the sanctions, ending of the nuclear program and that the next generation will lead to a more democratic, open, free state that is in more contact with the West.”

When asked about what Americans can do to help, Ebadi advocated for Americans to help pay for the education of Iranian youth, saying that “one thing that can be used to empower women and young people is education.”

Ebadi’s faith in the youth of Iran provides a call to action for younger people. Ebadi’s political action and activism embolden the youth to follow in her footsteps and Luca Johnson, a freshman at M-A, expressed his hopes for the future, stating that “one point that stood out from Dr. Ebadi’s talk was how the young people of Iran need to take action to change the future and I hope that the government will continue opening up as it has with the lifting of the sanctions, ending of the nuclear program and that the next generation will lead to a more democratic, open, free state that is in more contact with the West.”

When asked about what Americans can do to help, Ebadi advocated for Americans to help pay for the education of Iranian youth, saying that “one thing that can be used to empower women and young people is education.”

Although many enjoyed Shirin Ebadi’s talk, some felt that it fell short of what she could have done. As audience member Donia Bijan notes, “When you have the opportunity to give a powerful message, and if expectations are so high and you under deliver, it diminishes the importance of the work that you have done all your life. If you want to inspire young people, if that’s your goal, then you have to set the bar a lot higher.”

Ebadi is an incredibly inspirational woman, but I have to agree in that she could have said a lot more, and parts of the event seemed quite scripted. This is not to detract from Ebadi’s accomplishments, but just to express that there were higher expectations for the event.

Ebadi is an incredibly inspirational woman, but I have to agree in that she could have said a lot more, and parts of the event seemed quite scripted. This is not to detract from Ebadi’s accomplishments, but just to express that there were higher expectations for the event.

Ebadi continues to be an extremely influential woman, and as M-A senior Tara Fahimi puts it best, “I thought she was such an inspiration not just for Iranian people, but for anyone who is being oppressed by their government. She used humor to relay her story to the audience and didn’t seem bitter or angry about what had happened to her, but used her experiences to move forward and help others. The government of Iran did everything to stop her from achieving her goals for human rights and women’s rights as well. She talked about the fact that she wrote her book to inspire young people to be strong and stand up for what they think is right.”

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