Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. Photo: AP
Earlier this month, the Norwegian House of Literature in Oslo held a panel titled “Women’s Role and Participation in Islamic Societies,” which included among its panelists the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.
A former judge and rights activists, Ebadi became the first Iranina to win the Peace Prize in 2003. Ebadi spoke with Rudaw after the panel about the situation of Kurdish women in Iran and the region.
RUDAW: First, tell us about your life, activities and the conditions of women in Iran.
Shirin Ebadi: Since 2009, I have been outside Iran and I’m still continuing the activities that I started in Iran. An example of those activities is writing a monthly report about the violation of human rights in Iran.
Another project that I work on is running a website that contains subjects about human rights laws. On this website, we constantly disseminate information about the human rights violations in Iran.
About the Iranian women situation, they are facing lots of discriminations. Iranian law is misogynistic and discriminatory against women. For instance, gender-based segregation has forcibly divided sexes in schools and universities.
Another discriminatory measure that I can mention is the law to boost the Iranian population. It encourages people to have more children. This is a politically driven decision imposed by misogynistic laws and practiced by the Iranian government.
In your speech today, you described the 1979 Revolution as an Iranian men’s revolution against women. Do you really believe that all those men who took part in the revolution sought a religious system and the establishment of The Islamic Republic of Iran?
You misunderstood what I said. I never wanted to say whether Iranian people are religious or not. What I wanted to say was the revolution took all rights from Iranian women.
You are internationally recognized. Why don’t you establish an institute to unite all women rights activists and feminists in the Middle East? An effective and reliable organization to improve Middle Eastern women lives’ condition?
The establishment of the Female Noble Prize Winner was my idea that was accepted. Actually, we are an international NGO based in Ottawa. Our main focus is women rights and we are actively working in this field.
Do you think Iranian people need to topple the government or should wait for political reform?
I’m not a political leader; therefore I’m not telling people what to do. I’m a human rights lawyer so I’m for a solution that costs people less blood. If somebody has the power to change the regime let him or her to change it.
So, are you considering the regime change in Iran as a solution?
As I said I’m not a politician, but I do believe that changing the Iranian constitution would be inevitable if Iran wants to have a true republic. The Iranian constitution is undemocratic.
The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists has control over everything, and that’s the main obstacle that hinders democracy in the country. But is it possible to change the law without bloodshed? I would rather to see that change to happen through a peaceful solution.
What do you think about Kurdish women’s situation and the human rights condition in Kurdistan? How do you evaluate the recent demonstration in Mahabad?
Unfortunately, compared to other parts of Iran, Kurdish women are living in a bad condition in Iranian Kurdistan. Women from ethnic minorities are subjected to double suffering and injustice in Iran.
Other women equally suffer the existing discriminations, but minority women due to the intersecting of their ethnic and gender identity are subjected to more injustice and double suffering.
When there is a job opportunity, first they recruit men and then, if women ever get a chance to be considered, the chance of the applicants from ethnic minorities would be very low to get the job. Thus, the Kurdish women are suffering more than other women in Iran.
Speaking of Mahabad, we know that unfortunately many people got arrested by the Iranian security forces. I don’t consider the tension just an accident. During past years, we witnessed tragedies worse than what happened in Mahabad.
The most painful one was the execution of a Kurdish teacher, Farzad Kamangar, that saddened all of us. Other examples such as a 10-year prison sentence for my dear colleague and human rights activist Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand, or the imprisonment of Masoud and Khosro Kurdpour, are all signs of human rights violation. We are trying to report them and raise awareness about them.
What’s your stance of establishing an independent Kurdistan by Kurdish people?
I’ll support what all of people want.
If the majority of Kurdish people wanted an independent Kurdish state, would you support them?
If Kurdish people, through a free and democratic referendum under the United Nation’s observation, decide to have an independent state, we all in accordance to Human Rights Law should respect people’s will and decision.
What do you have to say about those Kurdish women who are fighting a dangerous terror group such as Islamic State in Kobani?
Kobani’s women are true symbol of brave women. They have shown to the world what it means to be women. With their courage and bravery they protected their city, their land and their dignity.
History won’t forget them.