The evening of Saturday May 15, 2004, in an unprecedented move, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi married the L.A. Iranian community. At the public engagement party yesterday afternoon, in UCLA's Royce Hall Auditorium, the Nobel Laureate received multiple standing ovations and outbursts from a few dissenters opposed to the entire thing. The Ebadi Organizing Committee, consisting of active and well-connected members of the L.A. Iranian community, worked tirelessly like parents exhausting themselves over the planning of their adult-child's wedding.
At a private high profile gala held in an upscale UCLA conference facility, guests purchased $100 seats in support of Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize victory (any moneys remaining after expenses will be donated to Ebadi's human rights organization). Prior to the event, the black tie guests enjoyed cocktails and hot Iranian tea, mingling among chilled shrimp and baklava like sweets on a large balcony overlooking the University. Meanwhile members of the Ebadi Organizing Committee, like the bride's best friends and immediate family, rushed around checking last minute details such as flowers, silverware, and seating arrangements.
As in a big fat Iranian wedding, hundreds of guests all wanted to congratulate the one — Iran's one and only Nobel bride. When the honorable Ebadi walked across the balcony, in a way much akin to the procession of a bride, community members trailed after her, aggressively vying for her undivided attention, stampeding her with hugs, smiles, and the digital camera flashes of an Iranian paparazzi.
As Iranians, we are a family thirsty for world renowned role-models, thirsty for national symbols we can love. We invest in our first Iranian Nobel Laureate our sense of pride — even after she sobers us with reminders that she is not a hero, that she is just an attorney doing her job. And as mortal as even the most honorable can be, in the bottom of our heart of hearts we esteem her with hope for the future of Iran.
Thank you to the Ebadi Organizing Committee, for the months of planning behind this polished party. The candles, mirrors, and flower arrangements set the ambiance for celebrating a Diaspora's love of Shirin Ebadi. Like any Iranian wedding, Ebadi tirelessly posed for photographs with the decked out guests at each table. After guests went home for the evening, members of the Organizing Committee stayed at the facility assisting the employees with cleaning up the left-overs of a once in a lifetime wedding.
Like with any kind of love, the real relationship begins after the hype and buzz of a honeymoon wedding have died down. The true test of love between Ebadi and our L.A. Iranian community is in the ways we will support her without a glamorous gala or cold shrimp.
Our true test of love, for Ebadi and for Iran's destiny, will be in the ways we maintain a continued support for the causes of human rights and democracy, in the ways we support this most qualified attorney in overcoming the everyday challenges of meeting our homeland's most basic human needs. Tonight, in a beautiful wedding, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi married the L.A. Iranian community.