Review: Iran Awakening
From Prison to Peace Prize: One Woman's Struggle at the Crossroads of History
By Shirin Ebadi
Shirin Ebadi is of course now a known name right across the world, after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. And in her memoir, she writes about an Iran we don't really hear about, an Iran we can't quite imagine. Yes, we knew of the appalling human rights track record but not in a way that felt real - it was once or twice removed from the reality of our humdrum lives.
How bland and watered down the term "human rights abuse" has become. How much more powerful is a description of death squads, and the moment Ebadi finds her own name listed for termination. The fear, but the also the bizarre flippancy, telling her husband later that evening, "Well, an interesting thing happened to me today..."
From the toppling of the Shah to a very pragmatic look at the public perception of the United States, from being discriminated against because of her gender and political views, to her personal sense of loss as she lets a daughter go abroad to study. From raising teenage girls in a state that will brook no deviating from the prescribed dress code, to an atmosphere of twisted paranoia where student protests are more often than not infiltrated by government agents trying to keep tabs of who's up to what. Not in a nice way, you understand. In the way that ends in jail and execution by firing squad.
What's heartening is that Ebadi refuses to give up her battle. Qualified to be a judge she's sidelined like many other educated women after the regime change, and oh the irony, that she like many others believed in Khomeini's cause...only to find that it was a sea change, but not in the direction they were hoping.
She gets out of the system, but gets involved in cases and takes the fight to the hard-line clerics. The battle is not on her terms, but she understands the need to establish her position through interpretations of Islam...and though it is dispiriting that often her efforts come to naught, the positive spin-off of her international acclaim and the fact that she is a "name", she acknowledges, puts a certain amount of pressure on the system. Hopefully enough pressure that her name doesn't pop up on any more death lists.
So this, then, is an insider's story, a story of courage, of spirit and quite the eye-opener on life in Iran, without the clichés we've grown used to thanks to Western propaganda.
More about Amrita Tripathi
Amrita Tripathi is a news anchor with CNN-IBN, and also doubles up as Health and Books Editor. An MA in Philosophy from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, she has also taught a few undergraduate classes at her alma mater, informally! When she is not tracking health issues, Amrita is busy chasing the literary dream. Her debut novel Broken News was published in 2010. Before joining CNN-IBN, Amrita worked with The Indian Express.