SHIRIN EBADI is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. In 2003, she became first Iranian and first Muslim woman to win the award for her human rights advocacy, in particular for the rights of Iranian women, children and political prisoners. She was the first female judge in Iran, but she has lived in exile since 2009.
SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] We have to remember that ISIS is not simply a terrorist group. It’s an ideology. And an ideology cannot be fought with bombs. This wrong ideology can only be fought with a correct interpretation of religion. Had books been thrown at people, at the Taliban, instead of bombs, and had schools been built in Afghanistan—4,000 schools could have been built in memory of the 4,000 people who died on 9/11—at this time, we wouldn’t have had ISIS. Let’s not forget that the roots of the ISISrest in the Taliban, so let’s not repeat the experience that was a loss.
I only have a very short time to speak, so I have a specific suggestion for the United Nations. I demand that the United Nations, through a convention, encourage all countries to reduce their military budgets by 10 percent and use it for the education and welfare of the people. And I want to ask the United States and the Western world to throw books at people. You will see that we will have a better world in the future.
SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] Peace activists should, in reality, work for justice. And also, they should work on holding governments responsible. For example, when we look at like the Middle East region, we see that it is on fire. Why? Because a bunch of dictators have been there for numerous years. They violate human rights. They were corrupt. They didn’t let the civil society grow. And people became poorer every day. And unfortunately, the world closed its eyes on them. One day, people became tired and threw or deposed the dictators. But the civil society has not been formed. There is anarchy, and resulted in the whole region being on fire now. And unfortunately, people have two bad options. They either have to put up with a dictator or anarchy and insecurity. They’re both bad. We shouldn’t let it get to this point. The people have two bad options. Look at Syria. The Assad family has ruled there over 40 years. The situation is such that some people think that if Assad leaves, ISIS will take over. And so, people don’t know whether to choose between ISIS or Assad, who has killed all these people. Therefore, when I talk to peace activists, what I say is, don’t let countries get to this stage where they’re on fire and then try to put the fire out. We shouldn’t let fire to grow. We have to come to a conclusion to provide for the infrastructure. In medicine, we say it’s better to prevent than to treat. The same thing is true about peace. Let’s stop it. Let’s prevent it.
SHIRIN EBADI: [translated] My advice is to want what they want for their own people for the people of these countries, as well. These countries have been destructed, obliterated, because big corporations want to become wealthier, so that they can sell arms. Therefore, my advice is: Treat the people of Afghanistan the same as you treat your own people. Look at Iraqi children the same as you look at your own children. Then you will see that the solution is there.