July 4 2006
Nobel laureate protests against conditions of women in Iran
TEHRAN -- Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi on Monday bemoaned the conditions of her fellow women in the Islamic republic and its restrictions on civil rights.
"If I wanted to talk about all women's rights violations in Iran, it would take weeks, and it all begins with the law," she told a press conference. "Where do these laws come from which are burdening women like this? A 12-year-old girl can go to prison but she cannot have a passport," said Ebadi, who is a lawyer.
Under the Islamic laws in force in Iran, the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man, and she is subject to the criminal law from the age of nine as opposed to 15 for boys.
Ebadi, who was speaking at the Office to Consolidate Unity, a reformist student movement, condemned a police raid in Tehran last month to break up a women's demonstration calling for equal rights.
Seventy people - including 42 women - were detained during the June 12 protest, which demanded reforms in Iran's legal code and the removal of discriminatory clauses against women.
Rights organizations condemned the use of violence to suppress the demonstrators, some of whom were beaten up.
"The rally was peaceful. Is the duty of the police to restore order or to attack people? What would have happened if some innocent women could say what they wanted," asked Ebadi. "The black stain in Iran is having so many political prisoners. The first step of democracy is freedom of expression. In no democratic country, are women looked at as a lesser being," she said.
Ebadi also condemned the continued detention of former MP Ali-Akbar Mussavi Khoini, who was arrested during the demonstration, and protested that she had not been allowed to see him as her lawyer.
She ridiculed official claims that intellectual Ramin Jahanbeglou, who was arrested in May, had been involved in a US-backed plan to launch a "velvet revolution" in Iran.
"They say he wanted to start a velvet revolution. Where are they selling all this velvet?" Ebadi asked, before winding up the press conference with the hope that "the victory of the feminist movement will open the way for democracy."