Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate banned from her country, has pushed back against new Western-backed sanctions aimed at the Islamic Republic over its controversial nuclear program, telling The Daily Beast today that they will only "hurt the people."
Ebadi's comments come a day after Iran agreed to fresh talks with the United Nations, to be held May 23 in Iraq's Baghdad.
Western countries accuse Iran of using its nuclear program to make a bomb. Iran says the program is purely for civilian purposes. Iran's Ebadi, meanwhile, says the program is not even popular with most Iranians, despite the government's claims otherwise.
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"The people want to stop enrichment but the government doesn’t listen," Ebadi told The Daily Beast. "Iran is situated on a fault line and people are scared of a Fukushima type of situation happening. We want peace, security, and economic welfare, and we cannot forgo all of our other rights for nuclear energy."
The prominent lawyer and author also argued that the new US and EU-imposed sanctions raise humanitarian concerns, telling The New York Times on Friday that Iranians "need these sanctions to be removed for a sustainable life.”
The fresh economic restrictions imposed on Iran's economy, already crippled by mass unemployment and struggling to provide basic state subsidies, have increased inflation and devalued the currency there. The situation is likely to get worse if an EU ban on Iranian oil goes into effect in coming months, according to NYT.
Ebadi also played down concerns of conflict erupting between Israel and Iran, saying she doesn't think Israel is capable of an attack. Her most recent book, The Golden Cage, a semi-fictional narrative about three brothers committed to uncompromising ideologies, can be seen as a metaphor for the tensions between Israel, the United States, and Iran, the 64-year-old author told The Daily Beast, warning that issues will never be resolved by states incapable of seeing beyond their own "framework."
As for the upcoming nuclear talks, Ebadi dismissed them as just another example of Iranian authorities "buying time," said NYT, telling The Daily Beast that given Iran's clearly-defined, oft-repeated enrichment goals, "I don’t understand what they want to talk about."
As for the seemingly intractable nuclear issue itself, Ebadi suggested that the real solution lies in revolution.
"If the Iranian people are able to topple the government, this could improve the situation," she said, referring to a massive uprising against the government in 2009 that resulted in a brutal crackdown on dissent.
Ebadi was forced into exile before the 2009 protests broke out. A founding member of Iran's Human Rights Defenders Center, which was established in 2001, she now uses her law practice to assist victims of rights abuse inside and outside Iran.