"MATERISALISATION OF DEMOCRACY IN IRAN IS OUR TASK": SHIRIN EBADI

By an IPS Correspondent

OSLO, 9 Dec. (IPS) "The struggle of Iranian women for their rights has started long, longtime ago and this award would strengthen this effort, helping Muslim women all over the world to get their rights as well", Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian winner of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for 2003 said in a press conference in Oslo on Tuesday.

While reiterating that there is no incompatibility between Islam and other civilizations, yet she admitted that Muslim women were subject to discrimination "in few fields" that she did not specified.

Since she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October, she has been vindicated by some Iranian radical clerics inside the country, accusing the Norwegian judges of the Nobel Academy to have acted under pressures from the United States and Zionist circles.image

Pressure groups controlled by the ruling Iranian conservatives have sent her death threats and disrupted last week a conference she was to give at a Tehran university, calling her "hypocrite" and "the sweet love of (American President George W.) Bush, who has labeled the Islamic Republic as a "rogue State" alongside of Communist North Korea and Iraq under the now toppled Saddam Hoseyn.

Even President Mohammad Khatami, described routinely in the Western press as "moderate" belittled the decision, saying that the Nobel Peace award "was not important".

At the same time, leftist groups outside Iran denounced the Academyís official statement to bestow the Prize to a "a Muslim Iranian woman" arguing that the remark contradicted equality of sexes, human rights, secularism and democracy, principles that are opposed by Islam.

"This award bestowed to an Iranian and a Muslim women has another message: That Islam is compatible with other civilization, but if an innocent is killed in the name of Islam, be sure that one has abused of the religion", she told in answer of an Iranian female correspondent arguing that Islam does not respect equal rights of women and is not compatible with democracy and human rights.

"We shall not allow that innocent people be killed or human rights principles be violated in the name of Islam", she said as some hundreds Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic were demonstrating outside the conference room.

In an "alternative" press conference held at the same time by the Iranian Communist Workers Party, speakers gave chilly details of the thousands of "innocent" Iranian political activists murdered in Iran in the name of Islam.

Offering her award to all women, but particularly to Iranian and Muslim women, she repeated her hopes to see the Prize she obtained would help promoting the values of human rights world over.

Though she escaped political questions raised by Western journalists, with few of them knowing exactly where Iran was located on the world map, repeating that she was not a "politic", she nevertheless rejected attacking of other countries in "whatever name or pretext.

"Democracy can be realized with peace, calm and serenity, not with violence and war. Itís materialisation is the task of the people and should not be used to attack other countries", she said, adding that however that "the support of international opinion and the United Nations would help", a veiled reference to the US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.

"If the peace sought by me and the peace sought by you is in conflict, then there is no peace at all", she said.

Asked how the international community should pressure the Iranian clerical rulers to embrace democracy and human rights, she said immediately that this was

"a national and patriotic duty of ours".

The 56 years-old lawyer and human rights campaigner who had been jailed for two weeks tow years ago will receive her Prize, a diploma, a gold medal and a cheque worth 10 million Swedish kronor (1.12 million euros, 1.36 million dollars) at a formal ceremony at Oslo City Hall on Wednesday. ENDS EBADI OSLO 91203