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The catalyst
With Shirin Ebadi's Nobel prize, I became empowered

By Golbarg Wedin Bashi
October 10, 2003
The Iranian

Today I woke up to the best news that has had to do with my country of birth; Iran.
It might sound strange that you never hear good news about your country, but when it comes to Iran, there have mainly been tears ever since I can remember except when the Iranian soccer team entered the 1998 World Cup Championships (!) or when young Iranians win the science Olympiads etc or pop groups merge and boys and girls are allowed to "sing" together?

But today's news was truly THE best news for every Iranian and for every Woman in the "Third World".

As many of you have already heard on today's headlines; Shirin Ebadi an Iranian woman, lawyer and human rights activist has won the Nobel Peace Prize. She has thus joined a line of people such as Nelson Mandela, The 14th Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Jr.

Now, who can say Mandela, Dalai Lama and King) fought for immorality in society or were weak? Even as Shirin Ebadi wins the Noble Peace Prize, there are still men who oppress women based on their physical strength and maintain a monopoly on what morality, religion, ethics, law and culture entails.

Shirin Ebadi has endured imprisonment because of her fight for human rights, in particular women's and children's rights (the most unprivileged section of the Iranian society) and for this she has been branded immoral, a criminal. The fight for women's human rights has been translated into wrecking family values and spreading prostitution (by Muslim conservatives and the far-right Christians)!

On most occasions when I tell people I am a feminist and a student in women's studies, they become ironic and ask me what I think about the biological differences between men and women and how mad feminist are in their quest fort women's equal rights etc.

Well, I can say that Mahatma Gandhi sure was a tiny and physically weak man, but does that make him less of a person? Or can it shatter all of his brave achievements for his country? Or just because Palestine is a tiny place and weaker than Israel, does that give Israel the right to suffocate it?


So, the same counts for every human being. Men who still belittle and oppress women are no better than those who traded Africans in the slave trade; their argument was also BIOLOGY. The superiority of one race over the other. They argued that without slavery the whole societal system would collapse. Without the slaves, who was then going to do all the work? Well, slavery was finally abolished and the world didn't end.

I therefore ask if women achieve their human rights, is the fear then over who will do the laundry and the washing up and/or will I as a man loose my job and all my powers? I think the answer is pretty simple. If we all share the world load on this earth, if we all share its wealth, then no one has to be afraid of losing out?

I hope that Shirin Ebadi's work and the recognition that the Noble Peace Committee has given her will empower every woman across the world and will be clear message to all the coward men who still think in terms of the rules of the jungle. I hope her Peace Prize will be THE catalyst that can break Iran and its women free...

If anyone ever tells me that human rights and democracy is NOT an integral part of Iranian or Islamic culture, I'll have the proud legacy/message of Shirin Ebadi and the many women like her, to throw at them. Today I became empowered, I no longer have to have white European women as my role models (even though they were the ones who started the Women's Movement), I can now look a lot closer to the familiar brown eyes of Shirin Ebadi and other brave women like her.

Please support the plight of women and spread the message of love, human rights, democracy and peace.


Golbarg Wedin Bashi is a Ph.D. student in the Faculty of Arts at University of Bristol.

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