April 12, 2018

Shirin Ebadi, a human rights lawyer and the winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, said there was discontentment with the government in Iran and called for an overhaul of the system.

“The Iranian people are very dissatisfied with their current government. They have realized that the current system is not reformable,” Ebadi told Eli Lake of BloombergView on April 5. “People want to change the governing regime, by redrafting a secular constitution based on the universal declaration of human rights.”

Shirin Ebadi

“People spontaneously came out onto the streets in 70 cities and called for a referendum,” Ebadi added, pointing out that President Hassan Rouhani had failed to deliver on the reforms he promised during the 2013 and 2016 election campaigns. Ebadi did not, however, appear to support military action against the regime by a foreign power: “Regime change should take place inside the country and by the Iranian people.”

Ebadi is concerned about the West reimposing some of the most crippling sanctions that were lifted in 2016. She said: “The secondary sanctions on Iran’s central bank benefited some key figures in the establishment who made a fortune by hiding the regime’s money. Meanwhile, average Iranians suffered hyperinflation.”

Ebadi called on the West to target Iranian state radio and TV, IRIB. She explained: “The best way to curtail regime’s ability to silence its opponents and spread propaganda is for Western satellite providers to prevent the IRIB from broadcasting its propaganda abroad.”

Ebadi said she regretted participating in an event sponsored by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) in 2011. NIAC played a crucial role in promoting President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. She said: “I realized that NIAC’s objectives were much closer to those of the government than to those of the people.”

Many political analysts and pundits around the globe have reacted to Mrs. Ebadi’s comments. Ammar Maleki, an Assistant Professor of Comprehensive Politics at Tilburg University in the Netherlands tweeted: “Shirin Ebadi has made it clear that a secular governing system should replace the Islamic Republic regime, and the Iranian Constitution should not recognize the office and the authority of Velayat-e Faqih (Governance of the Jurist.) She has called for a referendum so that people could decide for themselves. The West can help Iran in this regard.”

Some observers believe that Ebadi’s call for a regime change has weakened support for the reformists. Others, however, have attributed this shift in position to the fact that Ebadi knows the regime is on its last legs. Still others believe that her call for a regime change is just a political ploy.

Not surprisingly, many supporters of the Islamic Republic have launched vicious attacks against Mrs. Ebadi. Her comments have become a hot topic of discussion for many on social media.

Farrokh Negahdar, a former political prisoner (1968-78), tweeted: “My dear friend, Shirin Ebadi! It’s the people’s power and not the regime’s nature that ultimately reforms the governing system. A regime that rejects any reform would not willingly relinquish power. If we have the power to change a regime, then we must also have the ability to reform it. And if we are unable to reform the established system, then how are we going to change it?”

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