I apologize for my delayed posts as of late as I have been trying to meet other deadlines in a busy spring semester; however, ideas for posts and this blogging community are frequently on my mind.
It is my great pleasure to relay to you the sentiments of Dr. Shirin Ebadi. This past Friday night, Belmont University partnered with STARS to host the Mid-South Peace-Jam event. A human rights organization, Peace-Jam teaches youth about peace, allows them to develop peace proposals for various topics, and then present these to Nobel Peace Laureates at an annual conference. Pretty cool, huh?! This year, Dr. Ebadi was invited to receive the youth peace proposals and to be the keynote speaker.
The night began with a techie-heavy video that defined the sometimes ambiguous term: “human rights.” The short video can be found here and is well worth your time. After video, Dr. Ebadi took the stage. In 2003, Dr. Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at a historic ceremony, signifying the first Iranian to have received this distinction.
Dr. Ebadi is a small woman with a big voice. She spoke of the disjunct between the Iranian people and their government, stating that many Iranians do not promote the enrichment of uranium in their country, even though their government will not back down from it. She spoke of Iran’s involvement in Syria and about human rights violations occurring within Iran’s borders. Two womens testimonies in court are the equivalent of one man’s; by law, the life of a woman is considered half of that of a man’s. If one is not a Shi’a Muslim, life is very difficult, and often results in religious persecution (even Sunni Muslims experience this in Iran).
She spoke of the harsh economic sanctions imposed on Iran by western countries (ie. the US), sanctions which have affected the citizens in many detrimental ways. She suggested this was not the best or most humane way to force the government to disarm; instead she suggested very specific political sanctions.
When asked when she believes Iran will be a full democracy, she questioned the definition of democracy. Yes, Iranian citizens can vote, but do they all have basic human freedoms, such as a freedom of speech and religion? No. So, in her opinion, a true democracy does not exist in her country. She is hopeful that such structure will come through students and through feminists: stating: “The feminist movement is very strong in Iran, so is the student movement. I am sure that one day democracy of Iran will be brought through the youth.” I am happy to suggest the same is true for America, in that, I believe positive change is coming through students and feminism.
Asking the last question, a female student quietly inquired: “What can we do?” Shirin responded by saying: students must not be indifferent about what goes on in their country and the world. They must be informed activists. They must have larger goals for their life than achieving PhD’s or buying houses, (though these aren’t inherently negative), they must be real human beings.
Though she is currently exiled to London, it is clear that Shirin is still fighting for the human rights and dignities of her countrymen/women.
Though this woman can’t be taller than 5’1, is Iranian, and does not speak my native tongue, I suspect she and I are a lot alike. We believe that equality is a prerequisite for peace and that we, as humans, have a social responsibility to each other to work for these human rights. She and I realize that when women are disenfranchised, so are children, and so are men, everyone is. That when Iranians and Syrians suffer human rights violations, we do as much injustice to ourselves as we do to the sufferers of it when we refuse to care or engage.
Her eyes told me she had seen much injustice; her hands showed me that she had fought it with ferocity, not because she was suffering its oppression, but because this was what “being human” meant to her.
Is equality a prerequisite for peace? Are my standards too high, my thoughts too idealistic?