First Published: 2004-01-17

Ebadi: Iran future unpredictable without Khatami

Iranian human rights activist says Khatami should quit if hardliners keep stalling his reformist agenda.


Middle East Online

By Shaun Tandon - BOMBAY

The government can clearly suppress the people's demands, but this cannot go on forever: Ebadi

Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace laureate, said Saturday that President Mohammad Khatami should make good on threats to resign if hardliners continued to stall his reformist agenda.

Ebadi said Iran's future would be "unpredictable" without the reformist Khatami but she was optimistic his camp would triumph in the Islamic republic's power struggle.

"President Khatami said himself that if he couldn't pass measures due to the Guardians Council he would resign. So then he should resign," Ebadi said in Bombay, where she is attending the World Social Forum.

"It is not me who believes that Mr Khatami should resign, but he himself said he would quit if his measures couldn't be passed," she said.

The Guardians Council, Iran's conservative controlled electoral vetting body, on January 11 disqualified nearly half of the 8,157 people, mostly reformists, seeking to contest the February 20 parliamentary elections.

The move brought a threat by Khatami to lead mass resignations of ministers, MPs and provincial governors.

Asked what would happen if Khatami quit, Ebadi said: "It is unpredictable now."

But Ebadi, who in 1974 became the first female judge in Iran, said she was confident common people could lead a non-violent movement to press against the hardliners.

"They can do many things. We have the concept of a referendum in the Islamic republic's constitution. They can put pressure to have a referendum to choose Iran's next system in a non-violent way."

"I am an optimist," Ebadi said. "I have a vision that in the next year the Iranian people can get whatever they want and meet their demands. The Iranian people have been so patient throughout history to obtain democracy and human rights," she said.

"The government can clearly suppress the people's demands, but this cannot go on forever. So they really need to use their wisdom to keep themselves in power."

Ebadi late Friday helped inaugurate the six-day World Social Forum, the annual meet of the anti-globalisation movement, where the leading topic is the US occupation of Iraq.

"You cannot export democracy and human rights with bombs and tanks and other weapons," Ebadi said.

"I wish that the Iraqi people could have toppled Saddam Hussein by themselves and not with foreigners' help," she said. "But I need to stress that there are still many countries that don't enjoy any democracy but no one is going to attack them, because they don't have oil."

The Nobel laureate supported dialogue to improve relations between Iran and the United States, which broke off ties soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution when Iranians took hostage staff of the US embassy.

But she downplayed suggestions that a new page would immediately be turned since the United States delivered aid to victims of the December 26 earthquake in the Iranian city of Bam, which killed at least 41,000 people.

"The solution to improve relations between Iran and the United States is not about two or three airplanes," she said.

"We were upset with the Americans because they toppled prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh (in 1953) and supported the dictatorship of the shah. We need time to solve these problems."


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