2 June 2004


Press Briefing

press conference by shirin ebadi, 2003 nobel peace prize laureate

Peace will become durable only when respect for human rights and respect for democracy is universally observed, Shirin Ebadi, Iranian human rights defender and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

It had been more than 50 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed, she said, but the lack of commitment to human rights continued to be the source of local conflicts and war in many parts of the world.

Emphasizing her view that there should be no contradiction between Islam and democracy, she condemned the violations of human rights in many Islamic countries whose governments, she said, have invoked Islam to justify their actions.

“Unfortunately, in most Islamic countries, the status of human rights is not good.  They hide behind the shield of Islam.  Islam is not a good pretext with which to oppress people”, she said.

“You can be a Muslim and at the same time enjoy human rights and democracy”, she added.

Turning to the situation of human rights in her country, she called on the Iranian Government to live up to its promise to abide by the international human rights covenants it has joined.

“It is now time that we implement our international commitments and reform the laws that violate human rights in Iran”, she said.

In response to a request for her comments regarding the Iraq war, she reiterated her opposition to the military attack on Iraq, stressing the critical role the United Nations must play in the democratization process.

“Democracy is a historical process, not a present to offer a nation.  And it cannot be imposed on people by dropping bombs on them”, she said. 

She said the new Iraqi government must be judged according to the ability of those elected to gain the confidence of the Iraqi people.  It was a positive development that the new government included six women, she added, but only their performance would determine whether their presence in government would mean progress for the cause of human rights in Iraq.

Responding to a question about the significance of her Nobel Peace prize, she said the prize belonged to all freedom-loving movements and illustrated the understanding that peace must go through the gates of human rights.

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For information media. Not an official record.