Shirin Abadi: ‘New Elections Must Take Place’


In a SPIEGEL interview, Tehran-based attorney and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, 62, who is currently traveling in Europe, says the protests in Iran will continue unless the government “stops its butality towards the people” and allows new elections to be held.

SPIEGEL: At Friday prayers both reformers, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, appeared in public again for the first time. What does this mean for the reform movement?

Ebadi: It was bordering on an historic event, not just for Iran, but for the entire Islamist world — because so many people from the protest movement participated in these Friday prayers. The slogans were also important. The crowd for the first time chanted “Death to China” and “Death to Russia!,” they attacked the two most important countries that have supported the leadership in Tehran — at the United Nations, for example. The people have seen just who has been on the side of this regime for decades — two countries that themselves massively violate human rights.

SPIEGEL: In his sermon, former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani called for understanding for the reform movement, which has not recognized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. By doing so, was he offering his support for the opposition?

Ebadi: Yes and no. Rafsanjani expressed criticism, but not decisively enough. He has only spoken half the truth and he could have been a lot clearer — for example concerning the victims of the protests, those injured, kidnapped or killed by the regime’s security forces. To this day we still don’t know the fate of many people. Rafsanjani should have said this, the full truth, too.

SPIEGEL: In his sermon, Rafsanjani said he wished for an Iranian society in which everyone can say what he wants. Did that surprise you?

Ebadi: Rafsanjani only said what the people have been demanding for years. It’s good that, finally, a member of the leadership is now voicing such demands. Now the international community can see that the censorship we complain about really exists. With his words, Rafsanjani has confirmed that Iran is one big prison for freedom of opinion.

SPIEGEL: The ex-president called for tolerance, for reconciliation in both camps. Will tensions in the country now ease?

Ebadi: This is about more than the power struggle between two camps. This is about reconciliation between the people and the state. The people will distance themselves further and further from the government if they do not regain trust in the leadership. But that can only happen if the leadership respects the will of the people and does not continue to take violent action against the reform movement. On Friday peaceful protesters were again beaten with clubs and fired at with tear-gas grenades.

SPIEGEL: Rafsanjani had warned earlier that people might not only lose their trust in the leadership, but also in the Islamic Republic.

Ebadi: The system is in a serious crisis. The deep rift between the population and the leadership can only be overcome if the regime stops its brutality towards its own people, when all the arrested protesters are released and the families of the dead are compensated. Of course, new elections must also take place — preferably under the supervision of the United Nations.

There can only be a solution to this conflict if the government shows reason and approaches the people. Otherwise, I have no doubt that the protests will continue.

Der Spiegel

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