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Interview with 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Shirin Ibadi

  • Hla Than

VOA: Last week you were at the Burmese Embassy together with Nobel Laureate Jody Williams applying for visa to visit Fellow Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma. You were not given entry to the Embassy, what is your reaction?

Dr. Ibadi: Not only did they refuse to issue a visa we couldn’t gain entry into the Burmese Embassy. We had to slide our application forms under their door. My reaction is one of surprise and regret. I feel sorry for a government that doesn’t even accept a visa application.

VOA: How do you feel about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi being under house arrest for most of the time during past 17 years, and about her struggle for democracy and freedom for the people of Burma?

Dr. Ibadi: I think very highly of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi because she has been struggling for human rights and democracy in Burma for many years and has had to endure a great deal of hardship. And most importantly, she has never resorted to violence and has used only peaceful methods. This fact has doubled my respect for her and her campaign.

VOA: You're the first female Judge in Iran, what are the difficulties you face as a woman in the legal filed in the Islamic world?

Dr. Ibadi: The Islamic world is not a homogeneous one. In some countries women encounter greater challenges than others. For instance, in Saudi Arabia women cannot drive, but in countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia they have had women presidents for many years. In short, women suffer from a culture of patriarchy whether in the Islamic world or not.

VOA: You have fought to get justice on behalf of the Canadian Photo journalist Zara Kazemi. Could you relate your hardest moments?

Dr. Ibadi: It was when the judge in the case totally disregarded our legal arguments and issued an unjust ruling.

VOA: You champion for the rights of women and children in Iran, have you seen progress and what advice would you give to the women of Burma who are also in the same situation?

Dr. Ibadi: They need to have self-confidence and believe that they themselves can shape their own destiny. That’s the starting point for a successful feminist movement.

VOA: What is role of women in Iranian society?

Dr. Ibadi: If you’re referring to women’s role in family, then women’s command respect, but as whole in our society women have to put up with discriminatory laws. 65% of our university students are women and we have launched a campaign recently to have 1 million signatures for a petition in order to revoke these discriminatory laws.

VOA: What would you like to say to your colleague Burma's Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?

Dr. Ibadi: I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you because you are struggling to reach your goals without resorting to violence.

VOA: Thank you.

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