[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 15:09 GMT
Islam and Democracy
iranian women
How compatible are Islam and democacy?

In a HARDtalk interview on 10 December, Gavin Esler asked this year's Nobel Peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi, how she hoped to use the prize to further the causes of women's rights and human rights in Iran.

Shirin Ebadi became the first Iranian to win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for her work to promote human rights in her country.

She collected her prize in Oslo on Wednesday, 10 December. In a HARDtalk interview she told Gavin Esler that the prize was for the struggle of Iranian and Muslim women:

"Receiving this prize serves to demonstrate that the work we have done so far has been correct. And we should continue our work with courage."

The award was greeted with mixed feelings in Iran.

Mrs Ebadi was criticised by the conservative press which labelled the awarding of the prize to her as a "badge of shame".

The Nobel Peace Laureate has also received threats since the announcement of her win.

"Not only now but for very many years, I've been encountering threats. But I've learnt not to allow these threats to interfere in my work," she said.

Mrs Ebadi believes Islam and democracy can exist together. She said she wants to work within the existing Iranian legal and political systems to bring about change.

"Democracy is democracy, be it Islamic or non-Islamic. There's no difference. Democracy means the demands of the majority of people. And this issue, whether it be Iran or anywhere else, has the same meaning - the majority of people must be able to state their demands freely," she said.

Iranians are due to go to the polls in February for the next parliamentary elections, although there are fears of a low voter turnout.

Many voters are disillusioned with the reformists who have been unable to reform many of the country's laws and systems.

Mrs Ebadi made it clear she did not intend to get involved in politics, although she is calling on voters to cast their ballots.

"The realisation of democracy and promotion of human rights in every country is the national and patriotic duty of the people of that country," she told HARDtalk.

Mrs Ebadi said dialogue was needed to bridge the divide between East and West.

President Bush has labelled Iran a member of the axis of evil.

Mrs Ebadi said that Islam opposed terror and violence.

"Whenever an innocent person is killed in the name of Islam, you can be certain that the name of Islam is being abused."

HARDtalk can be seen on BBC World at 04:30 GMT, 11:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT, 19:30 GMT and 00:30 GMT

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific