May 2nd, 2012
History of the Middle East
“One Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Life and Country”
This book, “Iran Awakening”, is a novel written by Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi. Ebadi weaves the story of her life in a very personal and unique way, telling the account of the overthrow of the shah and the establishment of a new, religious fundamentalist regime in which opposition to the government are imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. By simply reading the Prologue, one can see the love Ebadi has for Iran and her people. This love that Ebadi has for the oppressed of Iran is a theme that appears throughout the book and seems to be a large factor behind her drive to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.
In the first chapter, Ebadi recounts her childhood from her birth on June 21st, 1947 in Hamedan, to her childhood in Tehran. Something that may come as a surprise to a reader was the equality between male and female in Ebadi’s home. This equality, however, was not common in most Iranian households, “Male children enjoyed an exalted status, spoiled and cosseted… They often felt themselves the center of the family’s orbit… Affection for a son was an investment”, says Ebadi. In Iranian culture, it was considered natural for a father to love his son more than his daughter. In Ebadi’s home, though, she describes her parent’s affections, attentions, and discipline as equally distributed. This equality in the home seems to play a large role in creating the strong, determined woman Ebadi would come to be, “My father’s championing of my independence, from the play yard to my later decision to become a judge, instilled a confidence in me that I never felt consciously, but came to regard as my most valued inheritance.” (Ebadi, 12). One may also find it interesting that as a child, Ebadi did not know anything of politics; until the coup d'état of 1953.
On August 19th, 1953, the beloved Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh was toppled in a coup d’état. Ebadi says that, as children, this news meant nothing. But the adults could see what Ebadi, at the time, could not. The book makes it clear that, to those of Iran who were not paid to think otherwise, Mossadegh was revered as a nationalist hero and the father of Iranian independence for his bold move of nationalizing Iran’s oil industry which had been, until then, controlled by the West. Therefore, it was obvious that this was the beginning of a vast change for Iran. Before the coup, Ebadi’s father, a longtime supporter of the prime minister, had advanced to become minister of agriculture. In this new regime, Ebadi’s father was forced out of his job, fated to languish in lower posts for the rest of his career. This was what caused a silence of all things political in the Ebadi home.
Entering law school in 1965 was a “turning point for me”, says Ebadi. The vast interest in Iran’s politics was shocking to her after coming from a home in which politics were never spoken of. After toying with the idea of studying political science, Ebadi decided on pursuing a judgeship; which is exactly what she did. In March of 1970, at the age of twenty-three, Ebadi became a judge. In 1975, after 6 months of getting to know each other Ebadi married Javad Tavassoni. Her husband, unlike many Iranian men, coped well with her professional ambitions. In the autumn of 1977, there was, what Ebadi describes as, a “shift in the streets of Tehran”. The shah’s regime was trying to reduce the power of the judiciary by setting up the ‘Mediating Council’, an extrajudicial outfit that would have allowed cases to be judged outside of the formal justice system. Some of the justices wrote a protest letter arguing against the council, demanding that all cases had to be tried before a court of law. This was the first collective action taken by the judges against the shah. Ebadi signed the letter. In January of 1978, President Jimmy Carter arrived in Tehran, Iran...