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Opinion

As if we NEEDED the Nobel
The reality is that the West treats the rest of the world as less than equal

November 14, 2003
The Iranian

I sincerely congratulate our fellow citizen, Shirin Ebadi, for earning such a prestigious honor. What follows is not intended to subdue her achievement at all. Quite to the contrary, having come to know her by how she expressed her beliefs after winning the recognition, I believe she is indeed a woman of high moral qualities. She seems to be searching her way out of the much hoopla of commonplace ceremonies and the so called opposing critiques, to cease the opportunity for taking a part in helping a nation, or a section of it if you will, that is under tremendous pressure from within and without.

How it pans out in our world (as the West insists to differentiate it from the rest of the world to imply, if not to express, inferiority) remains to be seen. I will not be surprised, however, if she runs for the executive office and even succeed Khatami. That would be an interesting dilemma for the Guardian Council to handle her candidacy. Nevertheless, we do not want to experience the same fate that Sadat, Rabin, and Arafat, faced after they received the same honor.

Having received an email almost immediately after the news, I read the Norwegian Nobel Committee's statement. I tried to remain a silent observer as I kept receiving joyous emails and telephone calls. I read some related articles, and watched the media. Thanks to cyber space, people expressed their opinions ranging from the view that Islamic Republic had managed to influence the committee's decision, to certain beliefs that she was the beginning of an end to Islamic Republic. Yet, no one seemed to care how the statement was worded.

People seemed to have won the jackpot, and were financing the way to make all their wishes come true or the opposite as if they have lost whatever hope they had to end tyranny in Iran!
The committee is indeed abreast of times and has certainly used its international influence to promote peace at critical points in the world affair. While former U.S. president Jimmy Carter was well qualified / nominated for the peace prize several times, the committee chose to honor him with the award only at a time of crisis to sharply and expressly criticize the belligerent Bush when he vied and ridiculed the international community that was trying its best to prevent a dubious and unbalanced war last year.

As a matter of principle, I doubt the West to ever care about the well being of our people let alone giving it a priority over its own interests. Yet, it seems to me the committee followed the same pattern again. Shirin Ebadi, as a secular who also believed in Islamic principles, was a perfect choice for a point of reference to mitigate the increasing apathy, if not hatred, towards the West. Given the perception (regardless of its underlying basis) that Iranian people are fed up with hardliners and are very much disappointed with reformists' performance, Shirin Ebadi could boost the morale in the secularists' camp.

Well, exercising her own free will or "as planned" based on conspiracy theories, Shirin Ebadi seems to side with reformists. Whether it was intended or not is not the issue. She was never elected by Iranian people to represent a common interest in the international community or even within our borders. Her painstaking professional and community works brought her a prestigious international honor like hundreds, if not thousands, of other Iranians in the fields of sports, science, economy, etc. who may have (or not have) received recognitions at different levels one way or the other. While we want to believe her winning the award has obligated her to side with a particular political interest, as long as she is not elected to represent us, we can certainly enjoy her honor by association but she is a free citizen to pursue her own goal.

Yet every Iranian or anyone in the Moslem or third world has every right to criticize the committee for its following two sets of standards in honoring Nobel Peace Winners.

Gunner Berge, the committee chairman directly attacked Bush administration for undermining peace "(awarding it to Jimmy Carter) should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken" the official announcement also carried the same weight "In a situation currently marked by threats of the use of power, Carter has stood by the principles that conflicts must as far as possible be resolved through mediation and international co-operation based on international law, respect for human rights, and economic development.

American people are clearly not a subject of the peace committee's official statements related to either the warmonger Bush or the pacifist Carter both of whom represented them in the past and present. The committee, however, feels comfortable to subject Iranian people or Moslems to the less honorable tone and tenure of an official statement as if they begged for recognition or Shirin Ebadi was an elected Iranian representative. And as if the committee was the final authority of deciding who is in NEED of an award. Even the structure of the sentence is in the passive voice "one of their citizens has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize" instead of an active voice that an Iranian has WON the Nobel Peace Prize.

Iranians, Moslems or women of that world are free and born with equally the same inalienable rights as any other people. Yet the West, America in particular, has treated them as minors who need appointed custodians instead of elected officials. Even so a variety of maneuvers, including coups, was needed to make sure the interests of the self appointed judge are protected instead of the minors'. Such a mentality is so complacent that the Novel Peace Committee, for which I have the greatest respect, faults a statement to imply a judgment:

"... we hope the Prize will be an inspiration for all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the Moslem world, and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support."

It is not a coincidence that the committee disconnects Carter and Bush administration from American people to praise for peace or criticize for war. Is it a twist of fate to connect Shirin Ebadi to her country and the Moslem world? Even if it is, the chances of intentional bad faith are slim. It is simply a clear indicator of a self centered culture to round up our people as minors in Iran and the third world that they, the masters, chose one of us to inspire and support a good homework for human rights.

The New York Times noted "Mr. Carter... has stretched the gravitas and star power of the Oval Office to promote democratic values across the world." I have yet to see a note pointing out the fact that Shirin Ebadi did all her work within the framework of Islamic Republic. Meaning one can peacefully stretch the fight for human rights within and against the boundaries of the same regime that violated those same rights. Is it possible to do the same for thousands who are held as prisoners and labeled "terrorists" without a charge by Bush administration?

No, I am not trying to be cynical. I am simply pointing out the reality of how the West treats the rest of the world as less than equal. If the Bush administration forges the Patriotic Act to limit human rights, it is the late comers to the U.S. who suffer. If a particular tyrant is out of favor, his people are lucky to endure the harsh reality of economic sanctions imposed by the West instead of an invasion. If Timothy McVeigh commits an act of terror, it is an individual who pays for it and, at most, a cult gets blamed. But if it is Bin Laden, the whole Islamic World must pay for his crimes, and religious leaders who are supposed to spread love, waste no time to label its prophet "a terrorist". Interestingly enough, even if you are an atheist from the third world (based on their ranking criteria) you are still guilty of being a Moslem by birth, looks, and ethnicity.

Iran has proved to be a country of peace for the past three centuries. It did not invade a single country even if it was required to take back what was taken from her by force. While the West was busy expanding its imperialist and colonialist greed, Iran kept losing its parts. When the Pahlavi regime was in favor, and Iran was the most powerful country in the region, the same arrogant Shah respected (or followed the order for, if you prefer) the will of Bahrainis to form an independent state or be a colony of the West.

We are a peaceful nation, and so many prominent figures sacrificed their own interests to settle political differences by peaceful means. Mossadeq respected the international community and filed his grievances with an international court. In return he was welcomed by a dirty American coup against his lawful government. Montazeri stood tall against Khomaini when he violated human rights, knowingly trading his guaranteed position to succeed him with house arrest. So is the case with so many peace activists who paid the ultimate price of their own lives.

Don't tell us to stop complaining about the past. Tell the West to stop treating our people as second class citizens of the world. Even more to the point, tell the West to stop repeating its past crimes in new forms. Economic, military, and technological might is not a cart e blanch to legitimize use of force. Don't use them to sell your own version of democracy. We experienced centuries of tyranny where self centered ruling caliphs oppressed people to force their own version of Islam. As much as they abused Islam for so long, it took the West such a short period of time to cause a lot more damage abusing democracy. What is the difference between their invading sovereign nations in the name of Islam, and the West is doing the same in the name of democracy? Yeah, the West does it for peace too!

Yes, the silent majority of our peace activists, or those of the Moslem World, are busy doing the real work. Most of them are truly eastern to prefer remaining anonymous. And if one of whom like Shirin Ebadi does apply for recognition, it is the Nobel Peace Committee to be grateful because she took the extra step to bridge the gap between the self-centered West and the humble gracious east.

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