# 377: BOOK OF THE WEEK — “Iran Awakening”


Ebadi, Shirin (2006). Iran Awakening.

Story behind the Book Choice

Whenever we in “the West” use the term “courage,” it is as appropriate as it is anywhere else in the world. Still, when you read a book like this one, you wonder how much courage women can have and how this compares to the courage “we” are talking about. Here it is considered courageous if women found businesses or speak up to their husbands or bosses. Again, all this is courageous but then there should be a different word used for women like Ebadi. Her narrative gives testimony to the fact that personal narratives can be full of sadness and courage without being overly emotional. I am not saying that emotional books are bad. Every book is emotional. I am just saying that this book reads more like a history book. It is full of historical events and it allows one to learn about the complexities of a country which has never really gotten out of trouble and unrest in the past century.

Ebadi received the Nobel Prize for her courage to defend women and regime critics in Iran. This is not what people are supposed to do there, especially not if they are judges. And Ebadi became a judge in Iran in her early twenties — the youngest judge in Iran. This in and of itself could be food for a personal narrative. But this fact only fills a few pages at the beginning. It was the beginning of a life devoted to the fierce believe in a country and its strengths without giving in to radical Islamization. This is at the core of the narrative. Ebadi writes as a faithful Muslim but she could never ever give in to the violence and anti-democratic mindset which the Iranian rulers enforced after the revolution of 1979. Hence, as in any story, there is no black and white. There is only the complexity of being Iranian in a world which simply does not awaken to the bell that rings for peace and human rights.

  1. Dignity
Ebadi 169

This passage is from the chapter “A Contentious Prisoner.” This is really what she is or how she describes herself. She was in no way unprepared to go to prison. She had known about the risk of this happening as she worked on another case which required her to defend a political enemy of the state. But the sentence which most struck me was the one written in the passage

“But I had promised myself I would never request anything in prison.”

Deciding to not ask for anything while you already have nothing — except for torture and interrogation — shows you everything about character and stamina. It shows you how determined someone is. Yes, fighting outside while in freedom requires determination. But holding on to your principles behind prison walls where you can expect that the rule of law is just as unimportant as outside in the streets is something outstandingly difficult.

For her, nothing was/is too difficult.

2. Peaceful weapons

Ebadi 209

Of course, I had to show this passage. When someone speaks about the power of written words, I just have to write about it. I know that so many people nowadays do not see the relevance of writing anymore. This is because they do not read anymore — never did so. Words are just pieces of information to them, nothing else. They read because they need something from the words, not because they want the words to do something to them. I have written about this so often, I know people get tired of it. I should just not think about them because you cannot convert people, you cannot reach them. I know this and I do focus on those who still read. Still, reading an epilogue like this one is such a powerful reminder of what words can do and how meaningful they are for a person like Ebadi. She has accomplished outstanding things. Still, she insists that writing is one of the most powerful weapons. I wish, those managers and self-declared “hands-on managers” get that at some point….

3. Retirement?

Ebadi 216

Given the special work situation which people are facing with Covid, I do understand that some think of retirement earlier than expected. But I do not see why it could make people happy — I mean really happy. Yes, I know that people are suffering at work and this is why they do not want to go there anymore. But that also means they never decided to do what they love. This is logical. And I know that it is a luxurious thing to choose a job that you really love. It is a pretty new thing in history, actually. In the past, you had to do what your parents told you or what your family status expected of you. Period. Even though I know all this, it is still striking to read how a life occupation, the personal obligation to fight for justice, never ends.

Ebadi’s clarification that retirement would mean her job is done, is really powerful. I think this because it is right. If you think about your work as problem-solving then there should be no job anymore by the time the problem has been solved. As far as I know, even though I have never been to Iran, that day has not come yet, neither is it close. On the contrary, things are getting worse every day. Women nbeaten and raped in war zones around the world. It is the norm, not the exception. We live in the year 2021 and the weapon industry is flourishing, people are murdering others for the same reasons they murdered them in the past: political ideology, religion, money.

I wish that everyone can sit back in their old days and think about NOT retiring. I wish that we all find something that will make us go on because we are not satisfied with the status quo. I wish that her fellow Iranians will continue fighting and that many women become judges in the future. Not just in Iran, everywhere around the world. Books like the one by Ebadi can light a fire in people. I refuse to believe it is otherwise. I am not sure if many can achieve the things she achieved. But it is not about the quantity. It is about the right people fighting for the right cause. The right cause is always the thing that occupies you day and night, that makes you work harder than a horse. This is what you are supposed to be doing.

How can I always forget that myself?

Reflection Questions

1) How do you think about Ebadi’s decision to not ask for anything in prison?

2) Do you think that writing indeed is a weapon? Why/not?

3) Which plans do you have for your life after retirement?