'If you want to help Iran, don't attack'
The Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi talks to David Batty about the regime's abuse of its population - and how the west needs to abandon the threat of war if it wants to win over Iran's people and bring change
Friday June 13 2008
| Photograph: Felix Heyder/EPA
Ebadi recently took her campaign to the mid-west United States, where she found sympathy among ordinary Americans upset by bellicose rhetoric about Iran. She is perturbed at how contestants in the US presidential race have cited their preparedness to attack Iran. In April, Hillary Clinton said she would "obliterate" the country if it attacked Israel.
"It is very concerning," she says. "Undoubtedly a military attack on Iran would worsen human rights in the country. Look at Iraq - now the fundamentalists have a pretext for their extremism. No one talks about freedom of speech or human rights. People just want a safe shelter.
The world needs to know that every day the lives of Iranians are "getting poorer and more impoverished" due to the regime's internal oppression and confrontational foreign policy, she says.
"There are close to 10 million people under the poverty line. That's one out of every seven. And that is according to official government figures, so let's imagine the reality.
Ebadi says that to tackle the surge in support for Iran among the young in the region, the US must stop supporting its undemocratic regimes. "What is interesting is almost all the undemocratic regimes in the Middle East – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates – is they're all friends of the United States," she says.
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(Shirin Ebadi's latest book, Refugee Rights in Iran, is published by Saqi at £12.99. www.saqibooks.com)