Shirin Ebadi for President!

By Abbas Djavadi – Why Not? She is a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Iran, an accomplished Iranian lawyer. She has defended people regardless of their social class and wealth, loyalty to the government or political tendencies, their religion, and sex. She has demonstrated courage to speak out and to fight for the dignity of men and women in Iran and the world and the rule of law and respect for human rights — and she has accepted to pay the price. Still, she has remained modest and moderate, cautious and careful about the limits of fights that can be won. A brave model of Iran’s middle class: educated, loyal to the country and the nation, successful, and widely respected domestically and internationally — and not only for winning the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.

You would think. Last week a group of thuggish «demonstrators» mobilized by the regime’s Basij militia attacked her home and office in Tehran. Two weeks ago, they closed her Center for Defenders of Human Rights — surprise, surprise! — for operating without a license. Last week, again, authorities raided her office and took away her computers and documents. But the government — too much of surprise! — announced that the issue with Mrs. Ebadi’s office is a «tax-related case» and has nothing to do with the Justice Authority.

Under the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, things are not going fine for Shirin Ebadi. Yes, dissident and moderate journalists, bank bureaucrats, professionals, professors, and teachers have been fired, downgraded, or forced into exile. Newspapers have been closed, reformist Islamists discredited, and even those conservatives outside of the Ahmadinejad grouping have been facing a struggle for staying in play. The campaign against Shirin Ebadi, who has zero political ambitions, was expected to start somehow after that chain of purges and pressures anyway.  But this is, apart of being stupid, a sign of desperation, sensing the threat from all corners of the society, and further isolating yourself from anybody outside of your very own group, and not only groups and political parties, but also highly respected personalities who don’t challenge your ultimate rule.

This seems to be the mood in the inner circle around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who has the final say on who people will elect as president in June this year. The Leader will determine the decision of the Guardian Council, a group of unelected clerics, who can and always has arbitrarily boycotted and filtered all dissident and uncomfortable candidates to the parliament, let alone to the presidency. Let’s not talk about a dispute if an article of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution really bars women from running for president  (the Guardian Council has also the authority to interpret the law and this article). Mr. Khamenei seems to be throwing — at least until this moment — his full weight behind incumbent President Ahmadinejad who has lost all his little, forced 19% support he enjoyed in the first round of the 2005 presidential election. He has destroyed the economy, raised the oppression, and further isolated Iran internationally. He will remain our next president, as it looks, or somebody of a less domestic and international embarrassment will be elected for the people by the people.

And Shirin Ebadi? Nobody has suggested that and I am sure she hasn’t even dreamed about a candidacy. My idea comes close to a joke. Something like the belief of every lottery player that he or she might, who knows, might win the grand prize. Let me please dream, at least. But I would be happy even if we could come out even, getting the lowest possible prize, paying for the lottery ticket, participating in the election: at least not Ahmadinejad.