Iran's First Lady
From the November 3, 2003 issue: Meet Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, a voice for human rights in the Muslim world.
Nov 3, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 08 • By AMIR TAHERI
Some opposition figures, including a grandson of Khomeini, have called for American military intervention in Iran. What is your view?
I am opposed to any foreign intervention in our affairs, whether political or military or in any other form. The people of Iran know their problems and know how to seek the solutions. All they need is moral and political support from the international community.
What are the projects you now have in mind?
The authorities have decided to definitely close two major cases on which I was working: the case of the thugs that attacked the university dormitory in Tehran, and the case of the murder of [dissident leader] Dariush Foruhar and his wife Parvaneh. The decision to close those cases is political. It means that justice will not be done. There is nothing more that I can do. But I have many other cases to pursue. I also have my nongovernmental organization for children plus programs to help women. One other project is to help with mine-clearance in provinces that were affected by the Iran-Iraq war.
Outside Iran, you do not wear the hijab. Why?
I wear it in Iran because it is imposed by law. If I don't wear it, I will be violating the law. I want that law changed, because I think the state has no business telling women whether or not they should cover their heads. I don't wear the hijab outside Iran because there is no such law. This is the case with many Iranian women. Instead of telling girls to cover their hair, we should teach them to use their heads. I am also against states that pass laws to prevent women from wearing the hijab.
Tell us a little bit about your family life.
I was born in Hamadan, but my family moved to Tehran when I was six months old. My father, the late Muhammad-Ali Ebadi, was a prominent lawyer. He was the author of a classic book on commercial law, which is still taught at universities and reissued in new editions every few years. My mother, Minoo Amidi, is alive and a great source of support for me. My husband is Javad Tavassolian, who is five years older than I and an electrical engineer. We have two daughters. The elder one, Negar, aged 22, is a graduate in communications-engineering from the Sharif University in Tehran. She is currently attending a postgraduate course at McGill University in Canada. Our younger daughter, Narguess, aged 21, is following in my footsteps by studying law at Beheshti University in Tehran.
Do you take time to look after your domestic responsibilities?
Yes. I am a mother and a housewife. My social activities may not leave me much time. But I always make sure that our home is properly organized and run.
Does your husband help you with housework?
Certainly, whenever I enlist his support. But he, too, is quite busy with his work.
Do you cook for your family, and, if yes, do they like your cooking?
I do cook the family meals. As for whether they like it or not, you have to ask my husband and my daughters.
Any message for Muslim women?
Yes. Keep fighting. Don't believe that you are decreed to have an inferior position. Study the Koran carefully, so that oppressors cannot impress you with citations and interpretations. Don't let individuals masquerading as theologians claim they have a monopoly on understanding Islam. Educate yourselves. Do your best and compete in all walks of life. God created us all equals. In fighting for equality we are doing what God wants us to do.