The Nobel Peace Prize conferred upon Shirin Ebadi is a recognition of the untiring efforts of a courageous human rights advocate. It is also an unequivocal condemnation of the clerical regime in Tehran by one of the most prestigious juries the world over. Ms. Ebadi has spoken up for justice in a political system that has continued its existence by breaking the law and abusing even those scant freedoms which its own faulty legislation has sanctioned for the country's citizens.
It is a biting irony that Shirin Ebadi has been acclaimed for efforts that amount to moving her country's legal system back to the rank it had reached a quarter of a century ago. She has endeavored to redeem for Iranian women and children those rights and freedoms that were achieved and taken for granted in the progressive era before the cataclysm of the 1979 Revolution. As a token of the Islamic Republic's disregard for women’s rights, Ms. Ebadi along with thousands of other Iranian women were told by the religious dictatorship to leave their jobs.
She was forced to resign her position as the first female judge in the history of the country. Nevertheless she refused to go home and keep silent. She bore being relegated to the rank of a legal assistant by the religious philistines who considered the place of women closer to the kitchen table than the judicial bench. She likens this painful experience to a demotion from the rank of company president to that of janitor.
The simile of degradation from the level of the President to that of a janitor can very aptly be applied to the debasement of the Iranian nation as whole in the hands of the forces of Islamist backwardness and tyranny. From the rank of one of the most advanced countries in the Middle East, and a highly respected member of the international community, Iran was metamorphosed into a land of human persecution and a hotbed of terrorism. It earned its full-fledged membership of the Axis of Evil by fostering, sponsoring and harboring the deadliest global assassins. Like Shirin Ebadi however, many other Iranians refused to sit down and accept this terrible fate for their homeland. A great number of those who courageously challenged the totalitarian regime are not alive today to witness this high tribute that in the words of Shahla Lahiji, a close friend of Ebadi's, "is like a prize to all Iranian people, who should be separated from their government."
The further the chasm deepens between the ruling clergy and the people of Iran, the closer we will get to the establishment of democracy in Iran. It should be obvious to everyone by now that the dark dreams of a regime whose President last year traveled to Lebanon and shamelessly announced his government's full support for the world's most pernicious terrorist groups has nothing in common with the aspirations of a people whose defender, and the defender of all human rights, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When Shirin Ebadi in an interview in Paris a few days ago said that "Iranian people are deeply disappointed by the revolution" and called for radical changes, she voiced the view of the majority of Iranians
Within the country itself the buzzword today is "gozar," which is the Persian term for "transition." Everyone is waiting for the denouement of this tragic revolution and an end to years of pain and suffering. The status quo has become untenable and the lofty speeches of the President and the spleenful slogans of the Supreme Leader have lost whatever effectiveness they once possessed.
The credibility of the Islamic Republic has been completely exhausted in the world arena, as well. The attempt on the part of some members of the international community to invest hope in the person of Mohammad Khatami and his platform of reform has proven itself to be wishful thinking. The unity of the hard-liners and the reformists over the issue of sponsoring global terrorism and the development of a nuclear program clearly indicates that ultimately there is no substantial difference between the various factions of the governing establishment. Khatami's offer for a "Dialogue among Civilizations" in the face of later developments proved itself to be shrill grandstanding. Such a call is incompatible with the congenital nature of a political system founded on murder and violence. Those countries that chose the path of "constructive engagement" with the mullahs very soon found themselves to be the victims when those mullahs unleash the violent side of the Islamic Republic's yo-yo diplomacy.
As the entire regime moves towards further isolation, both within the country and abroad, the role of individuals like Shirin Ebadi in shaping the political future of the country becomes increasingly important. Although the Machiavellians within the government of Khatami are not wasting any time in trying to claim her as one of their own children, the Iranian Nobel laureate has so far steered clear of aligning herself with any political faction. In an interview with Newsweek's Marie Valla, she likened Iran to a sick old mother that she will not desert. The moral authority of the Nobel Committee and the international recognition of her achievement will help her fight the illness that has paralyzed her country for two-and-a-half decades.
It was a proud moment for all Iranians to see the messages of congratulations pouring in from all over the world at Shirin Ebadi's award. President Bush, the man who included the Islamic Republic in the Axis of Evil, was one of the first world leaders to express his joy and approval. It was a fresh reminder that the free world is ready to celebrate the achievement of the Iranian people and stand by them in condemning the government that has kept itself in power by trampling upon their dignity and their fundamental rights. Shirin Ebadi has reclaimed her pride and her rightful place, jumping from "janitor" to Nobel laureate. The rest of the country cannot but be inspired to follow suit.