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University of Memphis hosts 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi

Ebadi speaks at the Univerity of Memphis

The University of Memphis has hosted some very important speakers over the last few years but none that with the international clout and experience of 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. The Student Activities Council sponsored event last Friday at the Rose Theatre was also the kick off to Bridges "Peace Jam" conference over the weekend which featured Ebadi as well.

The event was began with fellow Iranian Lily Afshar who played two beautiful Iranian Folk Ballads. Thereafter some Hamilton Elementary students individually spoke about what peace was. The students finished their presentation with the giving of gifts of peace to Shirin Ebadi.

When Shirin Ebadi spoke she did so in her native Farsi. Her translator relayed the English for the majority of the crowd and despite the unnatural flow of speaking the message was received.

Ebadi spoke at length of the numerous abuses of power and religion in Iran focusing especially on abuses of women. Much of her speech centered on enumerating those abuses but she gave the audience some information about current Iranian demonstrations against the government.

She spoke very flamboyantly making hand gestures and raising her voice into an emotional pitch. The audience was told that the recent Iranian presidential election winner was announced before the votes were counted. As a result many Iranian citizens took to the streets in peaceful protest where, "not one glass was broken." The protests were styled after American and Indian protests of non-violence due to the fact that they didn't want to give the government an excuse to crack down on the citizens with violence.

Out of this environment of intimidation and political crackdown the "Green Movement" was born. Ebadi wanted to salute the Green Movement and let the crowd know about it. She said that the movement was a proper one for the future because, "it is the organization of dissent irrespective of ideology based on the principles of democracy and human rights." She stated that despite what people want to believe, the fundamental desire for democracy and human rights must remain the central tenant in any peaceful movement.

In the loosely moderated Q and A session she let it be known that she believes that religion and democracy can co-exist. However, she stated that there must be a distinct separation between church and state in order to keep the motives of both pure.


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