Human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel peace prize before being forced into exile from Iran. She talks about Islamphobia, self-care and hope
Of all the places one might encounter Shirin Ebadi, Tallahassee should not be one. I was to meet her in the state capital of what is officially known as America’s sunshine state, but is more widely regarded as America’s weirdest state. Ebadi was in Florida for PeaceJam, which connects Nobel peace prize laureates with youth. But I found it hard to imagine the greatest Iranian human rights icon spending Persian New Year week at a teen camp on the Florida panhandle. “I go everywhere, I live on planes,” she tells me on the phone and indeed days later I’m scheduled to meet her closer to my home in New York City.
On the phone I hold my breath every time we speak – her informal, easy Persian contrasts with mine, layered with too much cloying etiquette, the kind you prepare for some relative of your dreams. Persian is my first language – I use it to speak to my family and Iranian friends, but recently I feel anxious. I consider the prospect of translating Persian for those trapped in legalese at airports during the “Muslim ban”, and I don’t trust my tongue.
All the freedoms my brother had, I had. There was no difference between us
The reason I told the story so openly was that I wanted to show what the government in Iran is capable of
There is a system here [in the US], but in Iran there is no system