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Iran's hardliners denounce Nobel Peace Prize winner

Associated Press

Tehran — While reformers have hailed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an Iranian human rights lawyer as a boost for democratic reforms, powerful hardliners denounced it as an act of interference in Iran's internal affairs that supports secularism over the religious ideals of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Shirin Ebadi, a human rights and democracy activist, won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for efforts that include promoting the rights of women and children in Iran and worldwide. She is the first Muslim woman to win the award.

“The prize is a source of pride for Iran and a boost to reforms and those seeking greater freedoms,” reformist cleric Naser Qavami said Saturday.

“As an elected lawmaker, I thank the Norwegian Nobel Committee for their right choice. Ebadi did deserve the award because of her brave efforts in promoting human rights,” Mr. Qavami, a former judge, told The Associated Press.

But hardliners, an unelected but powerful force in this conservative country, denounced the decision.

“The prize is a support for secular movements and against the ideals of the 1979 Islamic revolution,” said Hamid Reza Taraqi, a former legislator and member of the hardline Islamic Coalition Society.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee, against its original objectives of promoting peace, has turned into a political tool in the hand of foreigners to interfere in the internal affairs of our country,” Mr. Taraqi said.

At a news conference Friday in Paris, where she appeared without a head scarf, Ms. Ebadi said that in her view, there is no difference between Islam and human rights.

“Therefore, the religious ones should also welcome this award,” she said. “The prize means you can be a Muslim and at the same time have human rights.”

State-run radio and television, controlled by hardliners, made only passing mentions of the award as their final news item Friday.

On Saturday, Ms. Ebadi was the top story on the front page in the reformist dailies but hardline newspapers ignored the news.

The hardline daily Siyasat-e-Rooz gave priority on its front page to the discovery of an Iron Age-cemetery in Spain. Johuri-e-Eslami, another hardline paper, gave the news a small space on page two: “Westerners give Ebadi Nobel peace prize.”

The administration of reformist President Mohammad Khatami congratulated Ms. Ebadi's win in a statement provided to the AP late Friday. Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said: “We hope more attention will be paid to the opinions of Mrs. Ebadi both inside and outside Iran.”

Nobel committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said the decision was a message to the world.

“This is a message to the Iranian people, to the Muslim world, to the whole world, that human value, the fight for freedom, the fight for rights of women and children should be at the centre,” he said. “I hope the award of the peace to Ebadi can help strengthen and lend support to the cause of human rights in Iran.”

The committee said Ms. Ebadi represents reformed Islam, and lauded her for arguing for a new interpretation of Islamic law which is in harmony with vital human rights such as democracy, equality before the law.

Ms. Ebadi, 56, was Iran's first female judge and received her law degree from the University of Tehran.

Ms. Ebadi, who also is known for her writings, was president of the city court of Tehran from 1975-1979. Since the 1979 revolution she has been an activist for democracy and the rights of refugees, women and children.

As a lawyer, she represented families of writers and intellectuals killed in 1999, and worked to expose conspirators behind an attack by pro-clergy assailants on students at Tehran University in 1999.

Ms. Ebadi and another lawyer, Mohsen Rahami, were arrested in July 2000 for alleged links to a videotape that purportedly revealed ties between government officials and hardline vigilantes. They were released from jail after three weeks, but later given suspended prison sentences and barred from practising law for five years.



How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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