Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shirin Ebadi on the Power of the Written Word

The human rights activist, Shirin Ebadi, in her memoirs entitled, Iran Awakening, gives this cameo into the power of words and stories.

“Propped up on my desk in Tehran is a clipping of a political cartoon I like to keep in sight while I work. The sketch is of a woman wearing a space-age battle helmet, bent over a blank page with a pen in her hand. It reminds me of a truth that I have learned in my lifetime, one that is echoed in the history of Iranian women across the ages: that the written word is the most powerful tool we have to protect ourselves, both from the tyrants of the day and from our own traditions. Whether it is the storyteller of legend Scheherazade staving off beheading by spinning a thousand and one tales, feminist poets of the last century who challenged the culture’s perception of women through verse, or lawyers like me, who defend the powerless in courts, Iranian women have for centuries relied on words to transfer a reality.”

She says how her book is subject to censor and adds:

“My work places me in opposition to our system, and I suspect I may never be able to write anything in Iran without taking off my helmet.”

Shirin Ebadi with Azadeh Moaveni, Iran Awakening (London: Rider, 2006), 209-210.

A review of Iran Awakening can be found at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: Shirin Ebadi