Nobel winner wants Iran to free dissidents

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has called for the immediate release of jailed dissidents in the Islamic republic.

    Ebadi has vowed to continue her struggle for democracy and human rights

    She also insisted that human rights were not incompatible with Islam.

    "I wish for the release of all political prisoners and jailed journalists, as soon as possible," Ebadi told a news conference a day after returning to Iran to an emotional reception from hundreds of supporters.

    Dozens of pro-reform activists have been jailed and scores of liberal newspapers shut down by Iran's judiciary in the past four years.

    A crowd estimated at 3000, welcomed Ebadi home at Tehran's main airport on Tuesday night, with many chanting "Free political prisoners."

    "The defence of those facing political accusations has always been a priority, and this will continue," Ebadi told reporters.

    Debate ignited

    The Nobel winner has ignited fierce debate in Iran, with hardliners labelling her a political stooge of the West while reformers hail her as a symbol of the fight for greater democracy and freedom in Iran.

    "If entering politics means gaining power, God save me from the day I become tempted by power"

    Shirin Ebadi,
    Nobel Peace Prize winner

    Many ordinary Iranians hope Ebadi's award could reinvigorate Iran's reformist movement. But Ebadi quickly dismissed speculation that her new-found fame would see her launch into the political arena.

    "If entering politics means gaining power, God save me from the day I become tempted by power," she said.

    Womens rights

    A long-time campaigner for women's and children's rights, Ebadi has insisted that Islam is a religion of peace and equality and is not to be blamed for human rights abuses.

    "If women in Islamic countries are oppressed, it is because of their male-dominated cultures, not because of Islam," she said.

    Iranian officials promised the European Union (EU) last week to provide information on 30 political prisoners held in jail. The EU on Monday accused Iran of practising torture, suppressing freedom of expression and discriminating against women.

    Ebadi herself spent almost three weeks in jail and was banned from practising law for five years in 2000.

    By winning the Nobel award, Ebadi is not only the first Muslim woman to win it, but also joins a select group of women. She is only the 11th woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize since it was set up in 1901.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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