The Weathered Hands of a Nobel Peace Laureate

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.

Fall 2012 Beauty 100

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?


If you know me in the least, you know not to use the phrase: “love the sinner, hate the sin” around me. And you know that if you do use this special phrase in conversation, I will then muster of all the love that I can produce at that moment, and hopefully, lovingly express my strong aversion and repugnance for this phrase that has lingered in many pulpits over the years. I am of the opinion that there should be no hate involved anywhere in this process. Hate shouldn’t exist; it shouldn’t even be translatable in the English language. It should be taboo to hate anyone or anything. Take a second to think where hate has gotten us in history. Let’s not forget the most infamous: Adolf Hitler tops it off with his hatred and subsequent attempt to eradicate an entire gene pool, Maximilien Robespierre who brought about the “Reign of Terror” in France post Revolution, Idi Amin Dada: the evil Ugandan president, Pol Pot: the Cambodian leader of the Khmer Rouge, a group that successfully murdered 2 million Cambodians… one of the largest genocides in the world, let’s not forget Joseph Stalin of Russia who is now thought to have taken more lives than Hitler during his reign. Some of these men hated based on skin color/ ethnicity, some hated based on religion, some hated based on another man’s ideals, and some were simply evil, ruthless killers who enjoyed playing god… taking life at will.

What about Westboro Baptist church, the infamous church that protests homosexuality at military funerals while families are trying to bury their dead in peace? This is modern day hatred. Though I listed no American on the list above, America has its fair share of hate through the years. Hate of the native peoples here… look at Andrew Jackson’s forcing of the Cherokee and other tribes on what became known as the Trail of Tears. He hated Native Americans and he didn’t mind sending them on a cruel, west-ward trek during the dead of winter. What about our treatment of African Americans for years… for being the land of the free, America doesn’t have a great track record of not hating a race of people because of their skin. What about women? Women didn’t gain the right to vote until 1919… that was the same century that most of us reading this were born in. Women weren’t viewed as intelligent enough to be able to discern political beliefs and vote accordingly. How sad. (I still see women treated this way in the church, by the way). Anyway, I will digress from all the examples; I think it’s suffice to say that hatred has left wounds and scars on history that will never be able to be removed or forgotten. Black marks… blemishes… indicators of evil in the human race.

So don’t tell me to love the sinner, hate the sin. There should be no hate involved or we will be another generation that made the mistake of hating based on our categorization of someone. (Let me insert a comment here to also say not to misunderstand me: I believe in having one’s beliefs and morals; I am not encouraging a lack of any boundaries, I’m just asserting that some have gone to far with theirs). How many people hate another person and they’ve never even met that person? …never spoken to that person face to face.
But if you must have an intense dislike in your heart, then hate hunger, hate injustice, hate the selling of little girls into forced prostitution, hate unclean water, hate preventable diseases, hate rape, hate molestation, hate genocide, hate conflict diamonds. I’ll end with this quote by Anne Lamott: “And I realized once again that we’re not punished for our hatred… but by it.”