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Iran has confiscated the Nobel peace medal and diploma of Shirin Ebadi, the human rights lawyer who is one of the hardline regime’s most outspoken critics. Her bank account has also been frozen on the pretext that she owes almost $400,000 in tax.
The seizure of the award, unprecedented in its 108-year history, caused outrage in Oslo, where the Nobel Peace Committee is based. The Norwegian Government summoned the Iranian envoy to protest, and the committee said that it would make a formal complaint…
Geir Lundestad, secretary of the committee, said that Iran’s action was unacceptable. “A laureate has never been treated like that. Even political dissidents such as [Andrei] Sakharov and [Lech] Walesa were better treated in their countries,” he added, referring to the Russian dissident and the Polish trade union leader, both of whom won the prize while living in the Soviet bloc.
In 2003 Dr Ebadi became the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to win the peace prize, which was awarded for her campaign for democracy and human rights. She was abroad during President Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June and has spent the past five months travelling the world to draw attention to the regime’s alleged electoral fraud and suppression of the opposition. “I am effectively in exile,” she said recently.
She revealed the loss of her Nobel medal in an interview on Radio Farda, a US-backed Persian language station. She said that the regime had frozen her bank accounts and pension, as well as those of her husband, who is still in Tehran. She continued: “Even my Nobel and Légion d’honneur medals, my Freedom of Speech ring and other prizes, which were in my husband’s safe, have been confiscated.”
My family and I have enjoyed friendly links with citizens of Iran over many decades. As students, as engineers and builders – as a supporter of movements of national liberation my personal experience with Iranians has always found me with people of good will, kindness and courage.
The same does not apply to the theocrats in charge of the government of that nation. Like so many examples of the particular breed of religion-based bureaucrat, there is no appreciation of freedom of thought or dissent. We share the sadness of the Iranian people.