Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reading Iran Through Shirin Ebadi

This has been a crazy two weeks. With midterms and papers all due at the same time, I feel like I've hardly had any time to breathe. But in the few moments I have off in times of chaos like these, I like to escape from my world by reading about someone else's life - be that "someone else" a fictional character in a novel or a real person.

Right now, the life I'm reading about is Shirin Ebadi's. A judge, an Iranian, a woman, and a Nobel Prize winner, I couldn't pass up the chance to learn about her. I don't know much about her work, but I do remember coming across articles she wrote this summer urging the U.S. not to attack Iran.

Ebadi's book, Iran Awakening, is eye-opening. It's nice to see the mainstream media promoting an Iranian woman who is objectively critical of certain aspects of Iranian society without bashing Iran altogether. She refuses to paint topics like the Islamic Revolution or Iranian traditions with a single brush of cliches, but rather exposes the complexities of Iranian society that lead to their creation.

I bought this book as a small present for myself on Eid. And what a good choice it was. Have I piqued your interest enough? Good. Get your hands on a copy and read it, ASAP. We need balanced information like Ebadi's to get a better understanding of Iran, especially as it's taking a position of greater and greater importance on the world stage.

Go on, grab a copy of that book. You won't regret it.


Nicholas Karavatos said...

Back in Muscat several years ago I gave an argument essay question regarding whether Shirin Ebadi should be allowed to return to her judiciary role.

I'm surprised to hear that she's not more mainstream here, especially since her Nobel Prize.

Most of the Iranians I knew when I was young in southern California hadn't escaped the Shah, but were escaping the mullahs. Yup, I paled around with Baha'is - those dreaded heretics, those Zionist sympathizers in Arabic cloaking, those apostate-terrorists against God Itself. Blah blah blah! Suppression of the Baha'is had been and can be pretty brutal.

(I remember one older man who was in a creative writing class I was in at Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo. He liked one of my political poems so much he translated it into Farsi and sent it to his friends. Maybe I have a copy in a box in my mom's attic. I have no idea what his religion was.)

Baha'is had always been the most reasonable, affectionate, and nonracial religious group of the Abrahamic lineage that I'd ever broken bread with. And still are. (Sorry, no offence intended to local readers.)

At least someone - Shirin Ebadi - came to their legal aid at times. Thank God for Shirin Ebadi.

As I read I wondered again about this religious equivalent of guns-don’t-kill-people-people-kill-people. I keep hearing inherent contradictions and the denial of their existence. I keep hearing one side arguing the thesis and another side arguing the antithesis. Neither side admits the other. Could the thesis and antithesis create a synthesis? First they'd have to admit the other, and that is difficult when the other should not be admitted. Go synthesis!

And in another area, if it can be considered without nationalism:
Are more nuclear weapons better than less nuclear weapons?
Are nuclear fission (not fusion) reactors self-evidently appropriate technology?

Is it possible to stand against nuclear power as an appropriate technology and the proliferation of nuclear weapons without being nationalistic or anti-nationalistic?

(Let's not degenerate into the oh-yeah-what-about-you stuff. My point is more fundamental than that.)

Shirin Ebadi says: "Aside from being economically justified, it has become a cause of national pride for an old nation with a glorious history. No Iranian government, regardless of its ideology or democratic credentials, would dare to stop the program."

Is it possible to discuss the efficacy of the premise without being attacked as an (anti)nationalist? When does patriotism become nationalism?

What of the alleged pure seeking of knowledge? When is it inappropriate or is it ever?

What is wrong with working toward international appropriate technologies and international weapons moratoriums?


I wish Shirin Ebadi were on the chat shows so American women and men can hear what she says with their own ears. It would be great.

Go Ebadi.

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