Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Until We are Free - My Fight for Human Rights in Iran by Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi is a human rights activist from Iran - and the first Muslim female to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  This book is the story of her life of fighting for the rights of women, political activists, Bahai and other oppressed minorities in Iran.

Prior to the Iranian revolution, Ebadi was a judge.  When the Shah was overthrown the new Islamic regime stripped all women of their judgeships, feeling women were too emotional to make legal decisions.  Ebadi didn't let this deter her - she took up the cause of human rights law, working through the courts and political channels to try to uphold the rights of the oppressed.  She went about it in a very intelligent and systematic way, even using Islam to her advantage in arguing her cases.  Because she would never back down, she became a regular target of the Islamic regime - they tried everything to intimidate her.  Her situation worsened with the "election" of Ahmadinejad - she was stopped from appearing in court, holding events, speaking her mind and even spent some time in Evin prison.  However, the government stopped short of killing her or permanently imprisoning her - likely because it feared the international backlash of treating a Nobel prize winner in this way.

On the eve of Ahmadinejad's second term, Ebadi was traveling outside the country (she would not be intimidated into abandoning speaking on the world stage - even when her daughter was used as a pawn).  She has not been able to return to Iran due to threats against her and she continues her work from the UK and the US (she has one daughter living in each country).  After she left the country and continued to speak out against the regime, the government used her husband to try to silence her, eventually wearing him down and breaking up what was a very solid marriage.  She does hold out some hope of improvement under Rouhani, but it sounds like there is still a long way to go.

The book is well written, easy to read and highly educational.  While I was aware of the oppressive regime in Iran, it was still eye opening to hear it from the perspective of someone who has lived through it.  Some of the stories she tells are unimaginable.  I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in international human rights.

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