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Sally C. Pipes - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute [go to Pipes index]

No Belle Prize
Filling the shoes of Jimmy Carter...
[Sally C. Pipes] 1/14/04

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2003 to Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer. The choice has left many women puzzled, especially those in countries where women's rights are not exactly flourishing, such as Ebadi's own country of Iran.

Eleven women have won the Nobel Peace Prize, beginning with Baroness Bertha von Suttner in 1905. The weakest of the lot is the 1992 winner Rigoberta Menchu, whose story of humble beginnings and opposition to tyranny, as this column previously pointed out, is largely fraudulent. But not even Ms. Menchu staged a performance like that of Shirin Ebadi.

The Iranian lawyer did not use her acceptance speech to defend women from the restrictions and humiliations they suffer in Iran, an oppressive theocracy of unusual ferocity. Recently, Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian journalist of Iranian extraction, was murdered while taking photos outside a Tehran prison during a student protest. The regime first said the 54-year-old Kazemi died of a stroke but after protests from Canada, which withdrew its ambassador, Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi finally admitted that "The murder was caused by brain hemorrhage due to a blow inflicted on her."

Shirin Ebadi did not mention that atrocity, neither did she criticize the rigid Iranian regime. Rather, she lambasted the United States, accusing America of violating "universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of September 11th and the war on international terrorism as a pretext."

That, of course, is nonsense, and malicious nonsense at that. It is as though 1991 Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi had praised Burma's military dictatorship, or laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn had attacked the west and touted the Soviet Union.

As it turns out, Ebadi is not a critic of politicized Islam at all. Rather, she is an open apologist for it, as pointed out by Iranian exiles demonstrating at the Nobel ceremonies.

Massoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's vice president for the environment, appeared on CNN to praise Ebadi and portray Iran as a place where women have made great advances. Ebtekar, some may remember, was the official spokesman for the Iranian militants who in 1979 invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took Americans hostage.

It also turns out that Ebadi is just the sort of candidate the Nobel committee wanted. Geir Lundestad said "We felt it important to relate to human rights in the Muslim world, but wanted to avoid demonizing Islam."

That gives the game away. Peace Prize candidates are not chosen for their own merits, nor for actual contributions to peace. Rather the Nobel people pick the one that carries the message they want to send, even if he or she defends a regime that quashes human rights, subjugates women, and murders journalists.

There is solace to be taken from the previous Nobel winners in other fields. Marie Sklodowska Curie won the prize for physics in 1903 and then for chemistry in 1911, long before the feminist movement claimed credit for women's accomplishments. Nine other women have won in fields such as chemistry, physiology, and medicine. Nine women have also won the Nobel Prize for literature.

This should make it clear that talented women are being recognized for their achievements. The most recent Peace Prize, however, would lead us to believe that some women still have difficulty distinguishing freedom from tyranny.

Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute

copyright 2004 Pacific Research Institute




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