“We only want Iran to fulfil its international commitments”, Shirin Ebadi tells MEPs
Human rights campaigners in Iran have one clear demand of that country’s government: that it should comply with the many international undertakings it has voluntarily signed up to, MEPs were told on Wednesday by Iranian human rights activist and former Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.
Mrs Ebadi, who was addressing a joint meeting of the EP’s Delegation for Relations with Iran and the Subcommittee on Human Rights, then listed the many different kinds of human rights problems in her country. Religious discrimination entailed different punishments for crimes depending on whether the accused were Muslims or not. Gender discrimination meant that a woman counted for half a man in the eyes of the law. People accused of political crimes would not have a fair trial and freedom of expression was highly restricted.
Stoning, flogging, crucifixion and child executions
In particular, she said “punishments forbidden under international conventions” were still used in Iran, such as “stoning, cutting off of hands, flogging and crucifixion”. Moreover, the execution rate in Iran is very high, with 38 people having been executed since the beginning of January 2009. And the age of criminal responsibility is 9 for a girl and 15 for a boy, with the result that “last year Iran had the highest rate of child executions in the world”.
Strong sympathy from MEPs
On 15 January the European Parliament adopted a resolution strongly condemning the “repression, persecution and threats” against Shirin Ebadi and expressing grave concern at the persecution of human rights defenders in Iran. At today’s meeting, MEPs voiced strong support for Mrs Ebadi and asked more about the situation in her country. To questions by Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL, DE), Mrs Ebadi said she believed it would be useful “if Iran voluntarily and temporarily halted nuclear enrichment, if only to build confidence in the international community, which does not trust Iran”.
“They can close my office but they can’t close my mouth”
She also described how her office had been illegally closed down, her secretary arrested and she herself harassed. But she vowed “we will continue our work as long as we are alive”. Earlier she had said “They can close my office but they can’t close my mouth”.
Angelika Beer (Greens/EFA, DE), chair of the Delegation for Relations with Iran, took up Shirin Ebadi’s suggestion that EU representatives should do more to meet civil society representatives when visiting Iran, saying her delegation had been impressed on its last visit by the way that mothers of arrested students had asked MEPs “to spread the word in the outside world”. She also deplored the plight of the seven adherents of the Baha’i faith accused of spying for Israel and currently in prison in Iran, whose situation Parliament has raised with the Iranian authorities.
Luisa Morgantini (GUE/NGL, IT), EP Vice-President responsible for human rights, saluted Shirin Ebadi and former Sakharov Prize winner Nurit Peled-Elhanan, who was also present at the meeting – as “two great women” – for showing what women could do to defend human rights. Hélène Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR), chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee, was glad to hear that the EP and the EU can really help human rights defenders and she stressed the value of the EIDHR, an instrument which enables the EU to fund human rights and democracy campaigners without the approval of their governments.