Iran: Britain Is Appeasing Iran, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi Says
The only Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize accused Britain of ignoring the regime’s savage suppression of opposition in order to safeguard talks on its nuclear programme.
Shirin Ebadi, the human rights lawyer, said that her worst fears were confirmed when she saw the British Ambassador at President Ahmadinejad’s inauguration.
“That’s when I felt that human rights were being neglected,” she told The Times. “I’m very sorry to say the West cares more about its own security than human rights. I think they’re wrong... Undemocratic countries are more dangerous than a nuclear bomb. It’s undemocratic countries that jeopardise international peace.”
Dr Ebadi said that sanctions should have been imposed on the Iranian regime over the alleged theft of the election and the subsequence killing, beating and imprisoning of opponents. She has called for the downgrading of Western embassies, the withdrawal of ambassadors and the freezing of the assets of Iran’s leaders.
British officials dismissed her appeals as misguided. “The only other people who act like they want to close our embassy are the Iranian Government,” a Foreign Office source said.
Dr Ebadi said that Britain should have been tougher. By the time of Mr Ahmadinejad’s inauguration on August 5, the Iranian Government had repeatedly accused Britain of fomenting unrest, expelled a BBC correspondent and arrested several Iranians working for the embassy.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that Britain had signalled its displeasure at the regime’s conduct by withholding its customary letter of congratulation. It said that “communication channels had to be kept open”.
Since the inauguration, further evidence has emerged of the regime’s human rights abuses, including the systematic torture and rape of male and female opposition detainees. AForeign Office spokesman said: “We have stated categorically that Iran must be held to account for the appalling human rights violations we have all witnessed since the elections. We do not believe that our important interests in these areas are helped by boycotting formal state occasions.”
Officials argue that intervention would be counter-productive, as the Iranian regime has accused the opposition of being Western stooges.
Dr Ebadi is herself a target of the regime’s brutal post-election crackdown.
She was at a seminar in Spain at the time of the June 12 vote and when the crackdown began colleagues told her not to come home. She has instead travelled endlessly, lobbying international leaders and highlighting the regime’s abuses. “Naturally the Iranian Government doesn’t want the world to know what’s happening in Iran, so it’s my duty to inform as many people as possible,” she said.
She has put herself and her family at risk by talking to The Times. Three colleagues at her Centre for the Defence of Human Rights in Tehran have been locked up. She has been denounced by the state-controlled media and charged in absentia with conspiring against the state.
The Intelligence Ministry has repeatedly summoned her husband and her brother for interrogations, and ordered them to silence her. They told her husband that they could track her down wherever she was in the world. One of her daughters is in America, the second is studying in Britain.
“In effect they have threatened me with death,” she said. She will not stay silent. “Never. If nobody stands up to them they will act even worse.”
Dr Ebadi plans to go home in two months, daring the regime to arrest the first Muslim woman to win a Nobel prize. In 2000 she spent three weeks in solitary confinement after lodging a complaint against Tehran’s police chief for a lethal attack on pro-democracy students.
If not imprisoned, she will fight to secure justice for the families of those killed in the crackdown — a trail that could lead all the way to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. She has been approached by the mother of Neda Soltan, the student whose death made her an icon of the opposition.
Dr Ebadi said that she was enraged by the crimes that the regime had perpetrated in the name of Islam, but that ordinary Iranians were united as never before, with women at the fore, and that they would not forgive or forget the regime’s crimes. “The opposition has gained unstoppable momentum,” she said. “The people have reached a point of no return. I am sure they will be victorious, but when? The fall of the Berlin Wall was totally predictable but no one could say when.”
24 Sept. 2009