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05BANGKOK2601 THAILAND: NOBEL LAUREATE SHIRIN EBADI DISCUSSES HER VIEWS ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN IRAN, SHARES OPINIONS ON THE THAI SOUTH AND IRAQ

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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002601

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, NEA

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PHUM SOCI IR TH IRAQ

SUBJECT: THAILAND: NOBEL LAUREATE SHIRIN EBADI DISCUSSES

HER VIEWS ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN IRAN, SHARES OPINIONS

ON THE THAI SOUTH AND IRAQ

 

¶1. (U) SUMMARY. On April 10, Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate

(2003) Shirin Ebadi spoke in Bangkok. She focused a

discussion attended by poloff on her experiences as a judge,

lawyer and advocate for women,s rights in Iran, before and

after the Islamic Revolution. She argued that many of the

laws that stand in the way of women,s equality in Iran are

in place due to “the wrong interpretation of Islam,” and that

these laws are opposed by a “very strong” women,s movement.

Ms. Ebadi also criticized the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and

stated that the U.S. reason for going to war was a desire for

Iraqi oil. At a dinner reception that night, Ms. Ebadi

called for a withdrawal of Thai troops from the South as a

means of beginning peaceful negotiations with “the rebels.”

END SUMMARY

 

“THE RIGHTS OF HUMAN BEINGS ARE THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN”

 

¶2. (U) On April 10, Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate (2003)

Shirin Ebadi — who has just been named one of Time

Magazine,s 100 Most Influential People — spoke about

“Defending the Rights of Women and Children” to a small

audience composed primarily of representatives of the NGO

community and several members of the Thai Human Rights

Commission (HRC). Poloff observed several Muslim attendees

in the audience.

 

¶3. (U) Ms. Ebadi contrasted different ways women suffer

inequality in the West and in the Islamic World. In the

West, she said, women,s rights are legally protected, but

not always recognized by society. In the Islamic world, women

suffer “legal and institutionalized” discrimination,

including polygamy and unequal treatment under the law. She

concluded that these two halves form “an entire world where

women are second-class citizens” stemming principally from a

universal “patriarchal culture.” Ms. Ebadi argued that the

key to a peaceful society is a combination of “real”

democracy and human rights. She repeatedly emphasized that a

democracy elected by the majority, but which does not respect

the rights of its women and minorities is not a “real”

democracy.

 

¶4. (U) When asked why so many educated women in Iran

supported (“voted”) for the Revolution in 1979, Ebadi

responded that the key ideals behind the 1979 Revolution were

“independence and freedom,” which she supported to this day.

She expressed her hope that someday there would be “real”

democracy and freedom in Iran.

 

¶5. (U) Ms. Ebadi was asked what women,s groups in Iran have

been able to accomplish under Islamic shariyah law. She

noted that 63% of Iranian university students are now women

and that Iranian women are becoming more educated than men.

The feminist movement in Iran has been “gaining ground

strongly” and there is support from all classes of society.

Still, she said, the Iranian legal system continues to deny

women their rights as equal citizens. She pointed out that

many of the current laws derived from “the wrong

interpretation” of Islam and that these laws were “not

compatible with Iranian culture.”

 

¶6. (U) She proudly stated that pressure from women,s groups

had been instrumental in changing many laws, including the

reversal of a 1979 ruling that women could no longer serve as

judges. In 1979, female judges (including Ms. Ebadi herself)

were demoted to clerks in their own courts. Thanks to women

“fighting the system” she said, the government ruled in 1992

that the previous interpretation of Islam had been incorrect.

Although the women,s movement still had a long way to go,

she expressed optimism that women would one day win equal

rights in Iran

 

IRAQ

 

¶7. (U) When asked about Iraq, Ms. Ebadi stated that she had

denounced the U.S.-led military attack on Iraq on many

occasions. She added that although Saddam Hussein had been a

terrible dictator who “should have been eliminated,” she

“wished” that he had been overthrown by Iraqis and not by

U.S. military force. She said that recent elections were “a

step in the right direction,” but was adamant that the price

of the war had been “outrageously high,” resulting in 100,000

Iraqi deaths, the looting of national museums and the

destruction of homes. She argued that the human cost could

have been lessened greatly if the international community had

helped Iraqis to do the job themselves.

 

¶8. (U) She stated matter-of-factly that “oil was the deciding

factor for going to war.” When asked if she believed the war

was fought for the benefit of Israel, she considered the

question a moment before responding that while “it goes

without saying” that the foremost U.S. objective in the

Middle East is Israeli security, Iraq had not posed a serious

threat to Israel since the first Gulf War. In her opinion,

it was clearly oil that interested the U.S.

 

THE THAI SOUTH

 

¶9. (U) At a dinner hosted by the Thai Senate Foreign

Relations Committee the evening of April 10, press reports

indicate Ms. Ebadi urged a full pullout of Thai troops from

the South as a means of entering into peaceful talks with the

“rebels.” “In my opinion, soldiers must be returned to their

barrack. Through (dialogue) everything must be solved,” she

is quoted as saying. As part of Ms. Ebadi’s message of the

importance of “real democracy,” she also commented that

“majority-Islam nations must observe the rights of minorities

such as Christians, while majority-Buddhist nations must

observe the rights of minority Muslims.”

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

August 28, 2011 at 6:00 am

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