Nobel Laureate Says Iran Needs Real Democracy

Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi says real democracy and women's rights go hand-in-hand. The Iranian human rights activist told George Washington University students that Iranian women have a long way to go in achieving equal rights, but they will get there.

Ebadi says sometimes it feels like democracy was created for men and women just got the leftovers. She says that in Iran, where 65 percent of university students are female, women lack the political and economic power of their male counterparts.

She says democracy needs the vote of the majority, so it is not right for Iran's government to disregard women, who are half of society.

Ebadi is in the United States promoting her new memoir. In it she recounts her life as Iran's first female judge and her struggles after the 1979 Islamic Revolution battling the regime in her work as a defender of women, children and political prisoners. Ebadi won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her work as an activist and lawyer, but some critics say she has not used the accompanying international celebrity enough to benefit the cause of human rights in Iran.

In her remarks Thursday, Ebadi was critical of the lack of democracy and women's rights in Iran, but she also had some harsh words for Western powers.

She says that instead of bringing democracy to people with cluster bombs, we must support women in their pursuit of legitimate rights. She also criticized U.S. support of Saddam Hussein's regime during the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s.

Ebadi also referenced the current crisis over Iran's nuclear program, and of President Bush's refusal to rule out the option of a military strike against Iran.

She says the people of Iran are critical of their government, but they would never permit one foreign soldier to set foot on Iranian land.

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