Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Prize-winning lawyer and human rights activist from Iran, took part in the Global Action Day for Iran on July 25. More than 200 cities worldwide staged events. Ebadi spoke with Corriere Canadese/Tandem about how her country has changed and what the protests mean.
How has your country changed in the past 10 years?
One of the most important things that has changed in Iran in the past 10 years [are] the custody laws. The law now gives the mother custody of children in the best interest of the child as opposed to automatically granting custody to the father.
Is Iran’s pro-Moussavi protest about candidates or is the issue bigger than that?
The people of Iran are asking for their most basic human rights: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and democracy.
Its not the first time that Iran experiences protests like this, but now the world can see it happening, too, thanks to the Internet. How has it changed the battle for rights?
Mobile web technology has allowed the people of Iran to reach out to the world, and now it is our duty to hear their voices and take action.
Because of the Internet, Neda Soltani, the teenager who was killed, has become a symbol of the protest. How many Nedas were there before her?
Throughout Iranian history there have been many brave women who stood for freedom and sought peace. Neda, Sohrab and the many young people who lost their lives in this pursuit will not be forgotten.
If you were 20 years old would you protest on the streets for Moussavi?
Yes, I would. As you have seen, this is largely a youth movement and if I were 20 I would have been among them.
Regarding the case of Zahra Kazemi, the journalist killed in Iran, will we ever know the truth about her death? [Ebadi represented Kazemi's mother in the investigation.]
The truth is that she was imprisoned illegally and released from prison not alive but dead. And those responsible for her death must be held accountable.
Is there any chance that Iran can became a secular democracy? Is the real problem that the government is ruled by religion, or is that just a Western misconception?
The problem is the fact that the government abuses religion to control people.
Governments around the world are blaming Tehran for how the protests were handled. Could this change the situation?
International pressure can always help the people because those who are doing wrong know that they are being watched.
Do you ever wish you were born in another country?
No. I am an Iranian. I am a Muslim. I was born in Iran, and I will die a proud Iranian.
How do you imagine the country where you would like your grandchildren to grow up?
The same as the kind of nation that I would want for all children of the world to grow up in. A country that upholds and honours universal human rights for all.