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21. June 2005

Shirin Ebadi in the Diplomatic Academy/WwB

Shirin Ebadi was taking part in the conference "Civil Society Participation in Muslim Countries. Different Models, a common pattern?" in Vienna. The event was organised by students from the Diplomatic Academy; Women without Borders were partner organisation.

Shirin Ebadi and Manal Omar © Mehru Hasnain/WwB

Shirin Ebadi together with Manal Omar who also was a key speaker at the conference.

hirin Ebadi on the panel in the Diplomatic Academy © Mehru Hasnain/WwB

Shirin Ebadi at her speech in the Diplomatic Academy on May 30th 2005.

Iran - "In the eyes of God Men and Women are equal"

Shirin Ebadi, Iranian lawyer, women´s rights activist and Nobel Peace Price Winner in 2003 was speaker at the conference „Civil Society Participation in Muslim Countries: Different models, a common pattern?”, on May 31st.

An Artikel by Mehru Jaffer for the WFS, Women´s Feature Service,

Shirin Ebadi, 58 looks upon patriarchy as a problem today and not Islam.
Yet divorce is a male prerogative in Islamic societies and the word of one male witness is enough while two women are needed to testify a legal statement. In the right to inheritance the woman’s share is limited only to half of what is due to a man. This is because we are trying to solve the problems of today with the mind of ancestors who lived a very long time ago, Ebadi said on the eve of a presidential election on June 17 in Iran, appealing for immediate reforms in Islamic countries in accordance to the need of the day.

Ebadi believes that Islam accepts a division of roles but does not look upon the relationship of a woman with a man as one of subordination. She said that it is the responsibility of all intellectuals to reach out to the masses to inform them about the true spirit of Islam at Vienna’s Diplomatic Academy where students from 40 different countries organised a one day conference on Civil Society Participation in Muslim Countries: Different models, a common pattern Questioned by a student about the role of Iranian women in any future revolution in Iran, Ebadi added that the era of bloodshed and revolutions is over. nbsp;“Women in Iran are dissatisfied with their existing situation.
But they are also exhausted after the last revolution and the eight year long war with Iraq. We are tired of shedding blood. We want transformation and reform and we are prepared to pay any price for a more just legislation,” she said. Ebadi called for a re interpretation of Islamic law to accommodate human rights, freedom and democracy adding that it is possible to be a Muslim and to respect human rights at the same time. Ebadi does not think that democracy is incompatible with Islam.

The Nobel Prize winner is the first woman in the history of Iranian justice to have served as a judge. She refuted charges that Islam is responsible for the oppression of women, that it advocates violence and terrorism and restricts basic human rights. It is the false interpretation of Islam that is at fault as Islamic principles are not in conflict with the basic beliefs of human rights.
Ebadi blamed the personal interpretation of individuals that is propagated as the word of God for creating misunderstanding between Islam and the rest of the world. Following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in February 1979 along with other female judges, Ebadi was dismissed from Tehran’s City Court as a judge and given clerical duties to perform. Ebadi chose to resign and was jobless till 1992 when her lawyer’s licence was once again restored and she was able to practice. She said that it is impossible to find solutions to contemporary problems in texts that were written 700 years ago.

Unlike in the past the percentage of educated women in Iran is 63 percent today but the employment rate amongst women is only 11 percent Iranian women demand not only political reforms but dream of cultural changes too. They want a share in all power structures from political parties to the legislative bodies and senior positions in management. ldquo;Is it a crime to amend a law that states that a woman guilty of adultery should be divorced instead of stoned to death? Is it a crime to scrap a law that expects professional, salaried women to seek permission of their husband before they are allowed to travel,” she questioned an audience that gave Ebadi a standing ovation. 

Women are beginning to play an increasingly important role in a country where politics in the past was seen as an exclusively male domain. Women helped President Muhammad Khatami to be elected in 1997 and are responsible for voting reformists in large numbers to parliament in 2000. Nevertheless discriminatory rights in divorce, inheritance, child custody and their word worth only half of a man’s in court continues to be practiced in Iran mainly because all bills presented in parliament in favour of women are vetoed by the un elected body of the Guardian Council of 12 clerics and religious lawyers.


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