Shirin EbadiToday I heard Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi speak about the laws and policies in the US, in her own country (Iran), and around the world – and the ways in which they contribute to peace and human rights or promote war. The stark differences in views toward women and children contribute to very different policies.

I had never heard the Iranian perspective on these issues before, and so I found it fascinating to hear her thoughts and how she wished that things would change. I wasn’t aware before of the many men and women in Iran who are trying to establish more equality, democracy, and peace. She said that they realize that improving the situation in Iran is needed, but that it is the responsibility of Iranians alone and has nothing to do with foreign military troops. She said even a threat of a military attack would significantly worsen the efforts for human rights in Iran. [To applause from the audience.]

“We are fully aware that democracy and human rights can only flourish in a sound and peaceful environment.”

“There is no doubt that Saddam Husein was obviously a dictator. But I have a question for you. Was he the only dictator in the world? Unfortunately the world is full of those people. Perhaps the only difference between Saddam and the other dictators is that he sat on a lot of oil.

So the Iranian people understand that the problems in the government will not be solved by foreign military force. Long live the friendship between the people of Iran and the United States!” [Applause]

She talked about the different interpretations of Islam, and her belief that using Islam as a pretext to enforce will upon the people is wrong. She said against the government there is a weight of Islamic intellectuals who believe that they can come up with an interpretation of Islam that promotes peace. She said Islam is open to very different interpretations, and gave as an example the varying status of women across the Islamic world (Saudi Arabia where women can’t even drive vs. Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan where they have had women presidents). She said people in the Middle East are demanding an interpretation of Islam that demonstrates it is compatible with human rights and democracy.