On Saturday, August 29, 2009, the Emory University School of Law and a group of Iranian students in Georgia hosted an event called Iran 2009 Election Seminar, Precursors, Observations and Consequences. The event started with Abdullah Ahmed Al-Na'im, who is a professor at the university, introducing Shirin Ebadi. All there were told Ms. Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and founder of the Society for Protecting the Rights of Children and the Defendersof the Human Right Center in Iran. Shewas also the first female judge in the history of Iran but was removed after the 1979 revolution.
In 2003, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts regarding democracy and human rights with a focus on women's, children's and refugee rights. She was the first Iranian to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She is known to the students of Iran as Professor Ebadi as she is a law professor at the University of Tehran. As a professor and as a lawyer, she is well respected throughout Iran for having spoken out and represented political dissidents, women who are about to be stoned and children who are being executed under current laws in Iran. She is probably the most beloved leader in Iran because she has daringly taken on thegovernment and won on many occasions.
After being introduced,
Shirin Ebadi stepped up to the podium. She was small in stature but what
caught my eye about her first was she was not wearing a veil, as she would have
to do in Iran but instead had her beautiful reddish brown hair coiffed into a
beautiful hairstyle. She was wearing a bright yellow suit and she
radiated the warmth of a woman who fully knew where she was headed. She
softly spoke to the crowd at first and she informed the audience that she was
not here to pick a political party but was here for basic human rights.
She said, "I hope one day we will all live in a world that has regards for
human rights." She pointed out that in Iran there is not just one
voice but there are many voices that need to be heard. She spoke about
how the President's voice was not the only voice that needed heard. She
talked about howthe people had peacefully demanded their rights.
She said, " Iran is not exclusive to one or two politicians."
She stated. "That Iran does not at this time pay attention to human
rights." She talked about the people claiming fraud in the election
and how it is their right to peacefully demonstrate.
She spoke about how
the people were leaving the demonstration and returning home when her government
decided to shoot twelve people in the crowd. She talked about the fact that the
violence of her government needed to come to a stop. It was her wish
that people would no longer be beaten up, fired upon or incarcerated because
they claimed that the election was a fraud. It was their right to voice their
opinions free from prosecution. She stated. "That this funny court
should come to an end" as she was speaking about Ahmadinejad's show trial.
She spoke about the rapes in the prison andthe people who had been
murdered after the street marches.
She talked about an organization in her
country that is dear to her heart called the Mourning Mothers, who wear black
and sit in silence every Saturday in parks across the country to peacefully
prove to her government what they have done and how wrong it was for them to
harm these peaceful demonstrators. She asked, "For the women of the
world to emphasize with the mourning Mothers who believe in human rights."She
made it clear to all that were there that Iran does not protect human rights at
this time.She pointed out all the treaties the government had signed
to protect human rights but how they were now ignoring those treaties.She
also requested that her government set aside the election because of
fraud and that the UN monitors be brought in to hold a legitimate election.
Sitting there in the middle of a large group of Iranian students from Georgia,
I noticed they had tears in their eyes as this great woman spoke from the
heart. I realized at that moment that these Iranian students are part of
a movement in their country.
A movement that is seeking democracy, freedom and equality and Ms. Ebadi is their leader. She is also I learned upon mingling with a group of students during a break their role model for a brighter future in Iran. I repeatedly heard on Saturday that many of the speakers and students would like to see Ms. Ebadi become President of Iran. I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Ebadi during one of the breaks and realized why they love her so upon speaking with her. She cares so much for the people in her country and she told me that it is not a political party issue - that she wants basic human rights for all the citizens of Iran and a government free of religion. Ms. Ebadi embodies every virtue of the people's movement in Iran and she is what they are seeking as a leader for their country. It was clear upon speaking with her with her eyes sparkling that she wants a free Iran. Without a shadow of a doubt, Ms. Ebadi is the embodiment of what the Mullah's and Ahmadinejad are afraid of. She represents democracy, freedom and equality for all the people in Iran.
We learned a lot of other important things that day and had many interesting speakers. The first speaker after Ms. Ebadi was Jared Feuer. Jared is the Southern Regional Director of Amnesty International USA and was a terrific speaker. Jared informed us that over four thousand journalist students and political activists have been arrested since June 14, 2009. Jared made it clear that Amnesty had received information that there were horrors unleashed on these prisoners behind the jailhouse walls. He stated concisely "that the torture used on these prisoners had not been used to illicit actual intelligence but had been used to make the government appear legitimate". Jared also informed us that it was difficult to know all that was going on in Iran because Amnesty had not been allowed in Iran in the last thirty years. It is clear from this circumstance that the UN needs to be allowed to send in monitors to check on the well-being of these prisoners. Jared pointed out that is the only way we are going to insure their safety and rights are upheld.
Another fantastic speaker at the seminar was Walter R. Mebane Jr., a professor of political science and statistics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Mr. Mebane is an expert in elections and had recently spent a great deal of time studying the election in Iran this summer when Ahmadinejad allegedly won. He pointed out that there are discrepancies about Ahmadinejad's win that do not make the election appear credible. However, he was careful to say that there is still information that is needed to ascertain whether Ahmadinejad did or did not win. However, with the information that was presented to him statistically he thought the election results appear to be dubious and not credible.
The next delightful speaker was Noam Chomsky. Noam is a professor at MIT. Noam was very articulate about pointing out that Ahmadinejad's claims that the CIA was involved in trying to over throw his government were not correct. Noam stated, "It is just implausible that the CIA is involved because the people from the street do not need instructions from the CIA to go into the street."He also pointed out that we probably do not have any valuable CIA assets in Iran. He further pointed out that the brutal suppression of the people in the street greatly affected the credibility of the Iranian government around the world.
Julian Cole, a contemporary historian and professor from the University of Michigan, spoke about how the youth of Iran want more freedom and how the women want equality and less repression. He also pointed out that Ahmadinejad is a right-wing populist who represents the interest s of the wealthy in Iran while pretending to be a man of the people. He made it clear that Ahmadinejad, an engineer, does not identify with the working people of Iran.
The next speaker was Ahmad Sadri who is a professor at Lake Forest College.He spoke about what is happening in Iran and how it is currently in the stage of being a crisis. He further talked about how the jaw of democracy has been broken in Iran.
Hamid Dabishi is a professor at Columbia University. He called for Ahmadinejad to step down and to allow a woman to run for President. He th/en said that woman should be Ms. Ebadi. He pointed out that seventy percent of the Iranians are under the age of thirty- five. He stated, " Iran is at a turning point."He made clear to the audience that this is a civil rights movement that is not going away in Iran and is lead by the young people of Iran. He pointed out that the youth are demanding freedom and that the women want equality. He said it was often spoken in Iran these days, "where is my gun, where are our votes?' It is my understanding from what he said afterwards that these students are plugged into the world by iPods, the Internet and Twitter and that they are willing to fight for their freedom and their equality. They can see what they are missing. He stated, "Violence is inevitable in this generation." He stated, "People in Iran have witnessed kidnappings off the street, seen people taken off to prisons, raped, killed and buried in mass graves all because they want their civil rights."He pointed out that there is a changing moral environment in the region. He cautioned the audience that anyone who pointed out that this will change in three or four days is wrong and not to listen to them. He made it clear to everyone present during his speech and during the break, that Iran is headed for being a secular state and the days of being a religious state are over.
In the late afternoon, the audience was fortunate enough to have a panel made up of young activists and journalists. The three speakers wereOmid Memarian who is a blogger, a freelance writer for IPS news agency, who received the highest honor from Human Rights Watch in 2005, the "Human Rights Defender Award" for his work as a human rights activist in Iran. Melody Moezzi who is a young Iranian-American who has written a book called "War and Error: Real Stories of American Muslims."Melody is the first young Iranian-American woman writer in America to write that Ms. Ebadi should be President. Melody is a lawyer and was named Georgia's "Author of the Year" for her wonderful book about growing up being an Iranian-American.
The lovely Lily Pourzand
was the other young activist. She is also a young woman lawyer who was
trained in Iran and has moved to Canada so she could practice law as a woman in
freedom. These young peoplespoke about the 'people's movement,'
as they termed it, in Iran. They spoke about how the youth in Iran want a
secular country and freedom of religion. It was clearly evident
from hearing them speak that the youth and young women in Iran are leading the 'people's
movement.' They explained to us how important it was to let the people of
Iran lead this movement themselves and they explained the importance of the use
of Twitter in the regime changes going on in Iran. Melody Moezzi
pointed out that she hoped to one day to be able to go back to a 'free Iran.'
Omid spoke about the importance of us realizing that the confessions coming out
of the people's movement were caused by torture and that these people who are
now condemning the people's movements are victims of an oppressive regime who
is torturing them while they are holding them in jail. Omid spoke about
what it was like to be jailed in Iran. Lily told about the young women
and the heartaches they experienced in having no rights in divorces when it
came to their children. She spoke about the million-signature campaign
and goingdoor to door to work with the women in Iran. She spoke
about the little things women were doing to show that they wanted equality.
My favorite thing she said about the women is that they were finally expressing
themselves and showing their support for the green movement in Iran by painting
their fingernail and toenails green which is something unacceptable by their
government and that they were also wearing green eye shadow to show their
support. These women for far too long have been oppressed and the
youth have no freedom to even go buy a bottle of wine. I watched as these
young leaders spoke out about their hopes and dreams of a democracy for freedom
to express oneself and for the equality for women.
While watching, I noticed that the students of Iran were all nodding. One of the questions asked of the panel generated a response that said that 65 percent of the women in Iran are college educated. It became clear listening to these students that these women no longer want to hide behind their veils. It became clear that the young male students want the freedom to express their views about religion and their government. By the end of the day, I realized that the genie in the bottle of democracy, freedom and equality has been let out by these students who are tuned into the internet and plugged into the world with their iPods and iPhones.
These students are moving daily towards democracy, freedom and equality and no mullah or president of their country is going to stop them. It became clear listening to them that it is a matter of time because they want their basic human rights that Ms. Ebadi has shown them over the years that they deserve. It is for that reason that someday Ms. Ebadi may very well be the President of Iran. She understands the desires and hopes and dreams of the young people of Iran who are in search of a brighter, better future. She is the shining star in Iran and her soft gentle voice leads these students onward in their people's movement toward a free Iran. It is only a matter of time for the Mullah's and Ahmadinejad. These students know a free secular Iran is within reach and they are willing to fight for a free Iran.