By: Lillian Robinson, June 2005
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Shirin Ebadi, protector of women, children and victims of oppression; champion of freedom of speech; and winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.
Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, administrator and moralist, once said: "To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage." Confucius would have approved of Shirin Ebadi. She has spent her life seeing what is wrong, and working to make it right, no matter the risk to her own welfare, her safety or her life. She has fought all her life for democracy and human rights, focusing particularly on the struggle for the rights of women and children-at great personal cost.
When the Iranian revolution of 1979 took place, Shirin Ebadi had already been a distinguished lawyer for some time. In the previous four years, she had served as president of the City Court of Tehran, and as one of Iran's first female judges. She was forced to resign after the revolution, but this did not deter her from acting on her beliefs.
What are those beliefs?
Shirin Ebadi believes in the respect of basic human rights for all, particularly women and children, as a cornerstone of civilization. Amid violence, she has always advocated non-violence. She favours dialogue and enlightenment to change attitudes and resolve conflict.
She is the founder and leader of the Association for the Support of Children's Rights in Iran, and the author of many academic books and articles focused on human rights. You may know her books which are translated into English, including The Rights of the Child.
As a Muslim woman descended from Cyrus the Great, her humanitarian vision has always extended to all members of society. On the occasion of receiving the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, Ms. Ebadi quoted the 13th century poet Saadi of Shiraz:
The Sons of Adam are limbs of one another
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
And she went on to say:
Si le 21e siècle, a-t-elle ajouté, veut sortir du cycle de la violence, de la terreur et de la guerre et éviter une répétition du 20e siècle, le plus dramatique de toute l'histoire de l'humanité, il n'y parviendra que par la compréhension et le respect des droits fondamentaux de chaque femme et de chaque homme de la terre, quels que soient sa race, son sexe, sa religion, sa nationalité et son statut social.
En lui décernant le prix Nobel de la paix en 2003, le comité de sélection norvégien a déclaré:
En tant qu'avocate, juge, professeure, auteure et militante, Shirin Ebadi s'est exprimée haut et fort dans son pays, l'Iran, et bien au-delà de ses frontières. Professionnelle compétente et affirmée, cette femme courageuse n'a jamais tenu compte des menaces proférées contre elle.
Shirin Ebadi is a beautiful woman of whom her fellow Muslims, her fellow Iranians, and all of humanity can be deeply proud.
Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you Shirin Ebadi, so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
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