Monday, September 10, 2007

Regarding Shirin Ebadi Talk at Chicago Foundation for Women

During the summer Chicago Foundation for Women announced that Peace Noble laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi would be the main speaker at its annual luncheon and symposium on September 11, 2007. As it is customary of such events tickets were offered to the public. The usual communication networks also informed Iranian community in Chicago about the event. However on September 4th there was a press release that Shirin Ebadi would not be attending this event. It reads:

“Iranian Human Rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Shirin Ebadi was originally scheduled to appear but the government of Iran has refused to let her leave the country.”

Instead Activist and comedic actor Kathy Najimy will be the foundation annual luncheon speaker. As someone who reads Farsi and follows the news on the both sides of the hills, I must admit there was not any piece of news regarding Iranian government refusing to let Dr. Shirin Ebadi leave the country. By this I mean that there was nothing about it on numerous websites and weblogs. I have checked BBC Persian, and as well as some individual websites and Dr. Ebadi’s own website. There is no mention of such travel ban.

On the very same day of this press release, September 4th, Washington Post ran a story on Parnaz Azima Radio Farda’s reporter in Iran whose lawyer is Dr. Ebadi. Dr. Ebadi was cited saying that government has returned Ms. Azima’s passport and she is free to leave. Dr. Ebadi has a very heavy schedule. Just recently she invited United Nations to send an envoy to Tehran to probe women’s rights in the country. She has been involved in numerous cases that demand a great deal of her time. Certainly not everyone in Iranian government is thrilled about her and her activities. However the only place that reports that she has been banned from leaving country is Chicago Foundation for Women. I find it very hard to believe that there is such a ban.


Susy Schultz said...

We were deeply disappointed when we were told by the speaker's bureau through which we had booked Dr. Ebadi that she was unable to attend our luncheon becuase she could not leave Iran.

When we received the call from the speaker's bureau that Dr. Ebadi could not attend. We called both U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky to look into the problem. Their aides both talked with the State Department
and the answer was no visa request had been made. Therefore, both congressional offices, the speaker's burea and we concluded that her inability to come was from Iran, not the US.

Dr. Ebadi's office asked us not to pursue further State Department inquiries out of concerns for her safety in Iran.

As you can imagine, while it was a deep disappointment since Dr. Ebadi is such an amazing woman, it was also a bit of a scramble for us. Our luncheon draws about 2,000 people and is one of the largest in the city. So, we were very lucky that Ms. Najimy graciously agreed to step in.

We hope that circumstances will allow Dr. Ebadi to come here in the future. But we also know that tomorrow's event will be a great one.

Susy Schultz
Director of Advocacy and Communications
Chicago Foundation for Women

Ali said...

Dear Ms. Schultz,
Thank you for your prompt response. It certainly is a disappointment that Dr. Ebadi would not be attending tomorrow’s event. I hope that she comes to Chicago in near future. According to your own words, there was no visa request. From media reports one concludes that she has been extremely busy in the past weeks with her cases and agenda. So this could be a personal decision not a governmental issue. From your communiqué one gets the impression that she actually has been detained in Tehran on government orders and there is no report to support that impression from Tehran.