Shirin Ebadi: Islam does not justify inequality

From the acceptance speech of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, in Oslo
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The Independent Online

Women constitute half of the population of every country. To disregard women and bar them from active participation in political, social, economic and cultural life would, in fact, be tantamount to depriving the entire population of every society of half its capacity. The patriarchal structure and discrimination against women, particularly in the Islamic countries, cannot continue forever.

Some Muslims, under the pretext that democracy and human rights are not compatible with Islamic teachings and the traditional structure of Islamic societies, have justified despotic governments and continue to do so. The people of Iran, particularly in recent years, have shown that they deem participation in public affairs to be their right, and want to be masters of their own destiny. In fact, it is not so easy to rule over a people who are aware of their rights using traditional patriarchal and paternalistic methods.

The discriminatory plight of women in Islamic states has its roots in the patriarchal and male-dominated culture prevailing in these societies, not in Islam. The culture does not tolerate freedom and democracy, just as it does not believe in the equal rights of men and women and the liberation of women from male domination.

The decision by the Nobel Peace committee to award the 2003 prize to me, as the first Iranian and the first woman from an Islamic country, inspires me and millions of Iranians and nationals of Islamic states with the hope that our efforts, endeavours and struggles toward the realisation of human rights and the establishment of democracy enjoy the support, backing and solidarity of international civil society. The prize belongs to the people of Iran. It belongs to the people of Islamic states and the people of the South.