An interview with Nobel Peace prize winner and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi with the Iranian online journal Rooz Online

Rooz (R): You have consistently criticized the prospect of a U.S. military strike against Iran, ‎and at the same time you are one of the most outspoken critics of the Islamic Republic’s human ‎rights violations. Some conservatives say that these two issues are contradictory, because your ‎criticism may be used as an excuse by warmongers to launch attacks against Iran. What is your ‎opinion? ‎

Shirin Ebadi (SE): I have to say that, in all speeches that I have delivered about human rights ‎violations in Iran, I have immediately emphasized that, despite all the criticism directed at the ‎Islamic Republic regime for human rights violations, improving present conditions is the duty of ‎every single Iranian and has nothing to do with foreign troops. The Iranian people oppose ‎military strikes and even military threats against Iran, because that situation further deteriorates ‎the condition of human rights and democracy in Iran. Every government that finds itself in ‎danger attempts to exert more control over domestic environment and curtail personal liberties. ‎Therefore, just as Saddam Hussein’s attack on Iran led to a hike in human rights violations, ‎arrests and execution of political figures, any kind of future military strike against Iran will ‎further endanger the condition of those fighting for freedom. When war breaks out, issues such ‎as the right to free expression, education, and religious practice are overshadowed by security ‎policies and measures to preserve life. ‎

R: Do you think the possibility of a military strike has increased compared to before?‎

SE: Yes. Unfortunately, it has been a while since the tone of two countries’ officials have ‎become harsher. You witnessed that one of the presidential candidates in the U.S., Hillary ‎Clinton, even threatened to obliterate Iran if it poses a danger toward Israel. Another candidate, ‎John McCain, has made clear his extremist position on this issue and even sang “Bomb Iran” at a ‎gathering. Evidence of this sort is not indicative of improving relations. ‎

R: When you talk to American academics, what kind of issues are they interested in the most? ‎

SE: What gets discussed is what is my expertise, meaning human rights. Naturally, they are ‎interested to see what human rights conditions in Iran are like and, most importantly, how strong ‎is civil society and how does it react to human rights violations, and if civil society’s pressure can ‎improve the present situation or not. In addition, they usually ask me if I agree with Mr. ‎Ahmadinejad’s remarks about the Holocaust and wiping Israel of the map. I answer generally ‎that during elections I did not vote for Mr. Ahmadinejad and therefore I do not share his views. ‎

R: Do you think that in the remaining year running up to Iran’s next presidential elections, the ‎atmosphere will open up for human rights improvements and political activism, or do you ‎foresee even more pressure mounting on civil society activists given the post-eight Majlis ‎election atmosphere? ‎

SE: I hope that the Iranian government comes to realize that strengthening civil society will ‎result in reducing the gap between the regime and its people, so that people can defend their ‎country if it becomes necessary. When a nation is fearful of a foreign attack the government ‎must reduce the gap between itself and the people as much as possible. ‎