I woke up on Friday moring to learn about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to a woman from Iran.
Like many other Iranians, I had no clue who Shirin Ebadi is. But I felt the joy one feels upon achieving the unthinkable. The news brought an old Persian proverb to my mind. “The clap of one hand makes no sound.” How delightful to know it isn't so. The clap of Shirin Ebadi's hand made the world explode in applause for a people whose voice has been muffled with twenty years of silence.
It has now been three days. People talk about her everywhere and social conversations have been upgraded from food and clothes to women's issues. Many of us had never heard of Shirin Ebadi–though few are willing to admit that. Some feel the prize should have been shared with other known activists–such as Mehrangiz Kar–while others continue to believe in a conspiracy theory and wonder if political issues are involved. But most enjoy this selection as a just decision and a well deserved one.
Hard as it may be, let us put the glory aside for a moment and think. Where do we go with this?
Now that the voice of one among millions of the daughters of Persia has echoed around the world, what do the rest of us plan to do? Do we sit back, observe and enjoy? Or are we able to go beyond that? Did all the years of silence take our voices away or will this boost of energy help to bring out the best in us? Is time going to put an end to our celebration? Or will the flame keep burning?
Women's rights: The woman has spoken. What about the rights?
I decide to write a congratulary letter to this lady who has restored my bruised pride. But I stop. Does she care to hear from one who has never done anything for her country?
It doesn't help to realize I'm no hero. Never have been and never will be. I have so many excuses I couldn't begin to count them: “I only have one life”, “The stung by a snake fears any black or white rope”, “I can never make a difference”, the orders come from above”, and my favorite, “Ayy-baba!”
Then I stop the self punishment and move to the next phase. I feel small. I tell myself a woman of Shirin Ebadi's or Mehrangiz Karr's caliber-not to mention hundreds of others-doesn't need my support and certainly wouldn't care to hear from me. These women risk a life-far worthier than mine- to fight for justice. This, they will continue to do with or without the likes of me. Had it not been for her glory, would this lady ever hear from me? Am I indeed behind her or is this a demand on my share of the prize?
Whatever the motive, moments later I allow myself to once again enjoy the glory. No matter how I scold myself, the thrill is there and no one can take it away. I hear the echo of a powerful hand and it fills me with pride.
The truth is, I could kiss that hand.
Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a retired dentist and a freelance writer. She lives in San Diego, California.