August 17, 2016
“THE TRUTH IS, anyone can be turned,” I recently explained to family members as we sat around my parents’ living room, discussing whether a new acquaintance was a government informant — a person invading our personal and religious spaces to pass on information to the US government. “Everyone has something to lose, or to gain, and if the right pressure points are pressed, they will turn. It takes an extraordinary person to withstand that kind of pressure.”
An extraordinary person. And this is in the American context, where we can debate such issues to the drone of Fourth of July fireworks and not precision drone strikes; where disappearances and arbitrary detentions are so 2002. What does resistance now look like under an extremely suppressive and violent regime? How much easier would it be to pressure activists to abdicate their struggles? Looking at the life of Shirin Ebadi, the answer is: Not easy at all. Ebadi is a lawyer, human rights activist, and former Irani judge, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her human rights work in Iran. Her latest autobiographical work,Until We Are Free, describes her struggle to erect the rule of human rights law in Iran after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
Ebadi quickly debunks the notion that the life of a Nobel laureate is one in which the doors of progress open widely and tyranny abates under the world’s watchful eye with the prestige of the Nobel Prize serving as unassailable armor. Instead, as the Ahmadinejad reign devolves into further paranoiac policies and human rights violations abound — arbitrary detentions, the brutal suppression of political protests, the denial of access to attorneys, sham criminal charges like “conspiracy against national security” and the “dissemination of lies” — Ebadi and her colleagues are only further persecuted, putting their life and liberty on the line to salvage the remnants of Irani freedom.