Children's rights in Iran should not be jeopardized by any political interest
Open letter to Mrs. Shirin Ebadi
15 October 2003

By: Soraya Shahabi
Chair of the Children First

Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, I am writing this letter on behalf of Children First, the International Campaign for Children's Rights.

You were awarded this year's Noble Peace Prize. You are one of the well- known defenders of women's and children's rights in Iran. This is an important event. A woman who is in opposition to the Islamic government and is regarded a legal and "secular" opposition to it. It goes without saying that by awarding prizes, the aims of committees such as the Noble Peace Committee or any government have never been introducing peace and security. They have never adopted the cause of Human Rights. These committees seldom award such prizes to radical opposition figures. These seats are not supposed to be occupied by the radical opposition activists! Choosing the country or the figure as a candidate for the prize takes a lot of political calculations of which peace and Human Rights are not one of them! However this event, i.e., your election is indeed important, mainly because the suppression and violation of the most basic Human Rights by 24 years of Islamic rule against women and children in Iran is an important issue. Your election as the recipient of the Peace Prize is important because it has brought the situation of women and children and the faith of Islamic rule in Iran to the forefront of the international community. This event, independent of any analysis about the reasons behind your election, independent of the stands of any political current on the issue, can either become a step forward towards advancement of women's movement and defense of children's human rights, or be an obstacle to this advancement!

The question as to why amongst all the political figures of the world, Shirin Ebadi has been awarded the Prize, itself gives us guidance to more basic reasons about this choice. The truth behind such nomination takes us beyond Shirin Ebadi herself and her work.

Why Iran? Why Shirin Ebadi and not people like Ganji or Hajaryan? It is clear that Iran has not been chosen because of its thousand years of history or "the birth place of prominent people or women"! This can be nothing but patronization by the so-called superior nations. The only truth in magnifying your "Iranian" descends is to reduce the inferiority feeling of being a "third world" country in the eyes of the West!

Iran has been chosen by the Noble Peace Prize Committee because the Islamic regime is on the verge of being overthrown; because its Islamic pillars are in the process of being crumpled; because it is the only important place in the world where its people have shown the will to rise against one of the most brutal regimes of the world, i.e. the Islamic Republic of Iran. Following many years of silence in support of the struggle of people in Iran, by choosing you, the international community has shown to the world that the overthrow of the Islamic regime in Iran is inevitable. They state that there is no hope in survival of the regime in Iran.

Once again, after the Berlin conference, Iran and the painful situation of women and children has found a place in the political geography of the world! After many years of silence, the Western governments now speak of violation of women's and children's rights and have heard the voice of the people's struggle and the whisper of revolution in Iran! This confession is forced out of the mouth of the Noble Peace Committee and the international community as a result of the advancement of the people's movement to overthrow the sexual apartheid regime in Iran. The struggle of the people of Iran, women, the youth and workers has imposed this confession on the international community. Otherwise such committees would have preferred to award the prize to the "honorable" Muslim men like Montazeri and Khomeini! Whatever the analysis behind awarding the prize, one thing is for sure; this event can either be a step towards advancement of the women's movement and the movement for children's rights in Iran or an obstacle on the path of this advancement!

The Noble Peace Committee, in its statement about the importance of your election has issued an Islamic communiqué. One does not expect the committee to reflect the truth and issue a radical and human manifesto in defense of women's and children's rights. Your closeness and sudden alignment with the content of the Committee's statement regarding the claim that Islam is not in contradiction with Human Rights is a well-timed event! Your comments about Islam being progressive and closing your eyes on an important issue like Hijab not being a "voluntary culture" but a religious and compulsory policy which has claimed hundreds of victims during the 24 years of Islamic rule in Iran, is more than a political cleverness.

The hundred thousands of women and young girls who have been suppressed as a result of imposition of Hijab (veil), who have been humiliated, imprisoned, tortured, and executed will not be deceived by you or your god. The millions of parents who have, for more than two decades, been forced to observe the veil on their innocent children, those children who have been segregated at schools, in the streets and at the play grounds, will not be deceived by you or your god. All the mothers who have been refused the custody of their children after divorce and have cried outside the courtrooms and lawyers offices, such as your office, will not accept your statement. Neither will we!

Undoubtedly, you or anybody else can regard yourselves as Moslem woman/women, interpret Islam the way you choose to, and after 25 years of compulsory veil, even regard the veil as your own choice, but you are not justified to deceitfully conceal the truth about the lives of women, young girls and children. No degree of political interest can justify your swing to the right! No degree of political interest can justify victimization of women's, children's or anybody's rights.

Mrs. Ebadi, As mentioned above, your selection to receive the Noble Peace prize can either be a step towards advancement of the women's movement and the movement for children's rights or an obstacle on the path of this advancement! By conforming to the statement of the Noble Peace Committee, you have made your choice. Your role in concealing violation of women's and children's rights in Islam and the Islamic state, determines your present position. You strive for a liberal Islamic Republic, and not children's and women's human rights!

Mrs. Ebadi, The era of suppressing the people ended with the demise of Doo Xordad (Islamic opposition within the government against hardliners), and the demise of the process of reforming the Islamic regime. Your role, after that of Abdullah Sorosh and Shalgooni, in clearing the name of Islam and the Islamic state, has actually put you against the people! You might, with the respect and the credibility that you enjoy, and with your past experience be able to keep the rule of two decades of such hated regime for yet some limited time. However, you cannot hide the truth. No amount of credibility can stop the massive and ever growing protest movement in Iran.

Mrs. Ebadi, You have made your choice! So have the millions of people fighting for women's and children's rights in Iran. The battle is ongoing. We, together with the people in Iran will use this opportunity to achieve human rights for children, to provide a platform for advancement of women's movement, and a step towards the overthrow of the Islamic republic of Iran.