Shirin Ebadi

Remarks at Soka University - Jan. 6, 2011

Shirin Ebadi
January 06, 2011— Aliso Viejo, California
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Ebadi's remarks begin at 3:35 in the video.

TRANSLATOR: I greet you and say good morning to you and I thank you for coming this morning to this hall. [applause]

As you have heard this week is the week of peace and this Friday they will announce the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

So I would like to speak to you a little bit about peace.

So let's analyze. What is this peace that we are all looking after?

Peace is not the absence of war.

There is no difference between a time when a human dies from the enemy's bullet and the time when he or she dies from lack of water.

There is no difference between a person who has been arrested by a foreign enemy and the person who for the sake of writing an article has to spend years in the prisons of his or her own country.

There is no difference between the refugee who's been driven out by foreign occupation and the person who has lost his or her home because of inability to pay his or her mortgage.

And all these things disturb peace, whose real meaning is "calm being."

In my opinion, peace is the collection of conditions which allows humans to live calmly with human dignity.

So in order to for peace to prevail in a society to bases have to exist.

The first is democracy and the second is social justice.

The society where a person with the slightest criticism of a government has to go to prison—that society has no peace.

And it is for this reason that most of my activities through the years have been to protect democracy.

And the first step towards democracy is freedom of speech.

I want to tell you today about one of the experiences I had for defending democracy and freedom speech.

As you know, my country, Iran, is being governed by an undemocratic government.

The government is always checking people's text messages, phone calls or emails to see who is opposed to them so they can go and arrest them.

The Nokia company had sold a package to the government of Iran in which there was a software by which the government could control people's mobile phones and text messages.

And because of this software, many of my defendants are now in prison.

So I started fighting against Nokia.

And I told them you should not have sold software to a non-democratic government by which it can control its people and using it can throw people into prison.

We met with them several times.

At first they wouldn't listen to me. As you know, Nokia is a very large multinational company.

[applause after Ebadi speaks]

I told them, "Yes, you are a very large company and you have a lot of money, but something that I have is my tongue and I can never shut my tongue."


I'm very happy that two days ago Nokia finally surrendered and raised their arms.


And according to their official statement, which is also on their website, they have said….

They have written on their website that we are now certain that the government of Iran has abused this technology.

And so we're very sorry and apologize to the people of Iran.

And therefore we will, once our contract expires with the government of Iran in about a year, we will never sign another contract with the government of Iran.


This was one of my activities for freedom of speech because without freedom of speech, a democracy has no meaning.

Another work that I have done is to establish an NGO in Iran along with other attorneys and we defend political prisoners pro bono.


And we also support the families of political prisoners.

Whether or not we agree or disagree with their political ideology.

Because i believe in the freedom of speech. Everyone should be able to say what they want even if I disagree or agree with it.


And now the second foundation of peace…

…social justice.

The society where there's a huge gap between the rich and the poor will never see calm and tranquility and peace.

How do we expect to live in a world of peace when eighty percent of the world's wealth is in the hands of one percent of the world's population?


How can we expect to live in a world of peace and tranquility when according to the UNDP statistics, the amount of food that is thrown out of American and European restaurants we could eliminate hunger in Africa?


Therefore, assisting in the elimination of poverty is assisting in establishing peace.

And I'm active in this regard both in theoretical matters but also by taking action.

I'm a member of the Committee of Studies of the United Nations.

And I've proposed a plan under the title of the Convention of International Fight Against Poverty.

I really hope that one day this resolution will be passed and other countries will join it.


According to this plan, the natural resources of a country should help to improve the lives of its inhabitants, not to feed its army.

And the military budget of no country should be higher than its education and health care budget.


For instance, in the country of Burma where our friend Aung San Suu Kyi is in prison, there are more soldiers than school teachers.

You have to think about countries like this.

Have you ever imagined if they only take five percent of the American military budget and spend it on universities, how much better the universities will be?

I really hope governments and government officials will grow wise enough to realize that their natural resources should be spent to improve people's lives and not be spent on arms and killing those people.

Betty [Williams], I and the rest of us—we are struggling for that day to arrive.

And just as Betty said, I hope that one day we'll find war only in historical museums.