At a meeting with representatives from several Norwegian NGOs at the Human Rights House in Oslo last Friday, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi gave an update of the situation for the press and for human rights activists in Iran.
“The situation is worsening daily. There has been an increase in executions, also of citizens under the age of 18”, says Ebadi and adds that she is currently trying to stop the executions of two 15-year olds. She blames the “bad” laws and the legal system for this situation. She has started a campaign at her human rights centre in Teheran, sending people on door-to-door visits to collect signatures in order to fight the oppressive legal system. She asks for more international focus on these executions and claims that authorities sentence 15-year olds to death and then put then execution on hold until they are 18.
Ebadi also told her story about the recent visit of Louise Arbour – the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to Teheran last month. Iranian authorities ordered the press not to write about the visit fearing that people and organisations would be wanting to meet with her. But somebody learned about her visit and while Arbour was on her way to the UN office in Teheran, the families of 12 jailed political prisoners were holding a demonstration outside the building. The police, while beating up the demonstrators outside the UN-office, desperately tried to slow down Arbour´s car. Finally, UN-staff intervened, Ebadi informed Arbour about the incident and she promised to raise it with the authorities.
Her own situation is difficult and she receives threaths every day. She has spent part of the money from the Nobel Prize to set up offices in her Center for Human Rights Defenders, even though she has been warned by authorities that the office is illegal. Her center does not accept any sort of financial aid from national or foreign sources. Its activities are based on free work and membership fees only.
The opposition among the people grows stronger every day due to increasing powerty. She has refused to take on any form of political leadership saying that her role is that of the human rights defender.