Censored by the US, the Iranian judge who won Nobel Peace Prize
By James Sturcke
03 November 2004
The Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, honoured for her work on democracy and human rights, is suing the United States government for blocking the publication of her memoirs.
In papers filed at a US court, Ms Ebadi argued that American Treasury regulations restricting the publication of works by authors in countries subject to US trade sanctions is unconstitutional. Ms Ebadi and The Strothman Agency, a literary agent, filed the suit in New York last week. On Monday, a federal judge agreed to add the lawsuit to similar litigation brought in September by other publishing groups and authors. A hearing date has yet to be set.
Ms Ebadi, 57, became Iran's first woman judge during the waning years of the Western-backed monarchy, but was forced to resign when a hardline Islamic regime took power in 1979 after the Iranian revolution.
As a lawyer and human rights activist she has represented the families of writers and intellectuals who were murdered in Iran - legal campaigns that have landed her in prison.
According to US regulations, American companies are forbidden to publish the works of authors in Iran, Cuba and Sudan unless the works have already been completed without American involvement. Publishers are also forbidden from promoting or marketing works from the three countries unless they obtain a licence from the Office of Foreign Asset Control.
The lawsuit alleges the restrictions violate the First Amendment and declarations by Congress that US trade embargoes may not be allowed to restrict the free flow of information and ideas. Molly Millerwise, a Treasury spokeswoman, declined to comment.
Ms Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, making her the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to win the award. She wants to write a book about her life and publish it in America, rather than Iran, where it would be subject to state approval.
Ms Ebadi said in her suit that blocking her memoirs would be a "critical missed opportunity both for Americans to learn more about my country and its people from a variety of Iranian voices and for a better understanding to be achieved between our two countries".
In April Ms Ebadi was included, with Nelson Mandela, in a Time magazine study of the world's most influential heroes and icons. She is known for promoting peaceful, democratic solutions, and takes an active part in public debate. She is admired in Iran for her defence in court of victims of the conservative faction's attack on freedom of speech and political freedom.
Ms Ebadi represents Reformed Islam, and argues for a new interpretation of Islamic law which is in harmony with human rights. Ebadi has written a number of books and articles focusing on the subject.