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Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hopeby Shirin Ebadi
"The book is a powerful condemnation of the dictatorship of the ayatollahs, at its best when it recounts the suffering of those whom Ebadi represented. The gross injustices and the everyday cruelties of the Islamist regime in Iran would be comical were they not so tragic." Vali Nasr, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
The moving, inspiring memoir of one of the great women of our times, Shirin Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize and advocate for the oppressed, whose spirit has remained strong in the face of political persecution and despite the challenges she has faced raising a family while pursuing her work.
Best known in this country as the lawyer working tirelessly on behalf of Canadian photojournalist, Zara Kazemi — raped, tortured and murdered in Iran — Dr. Ebadi offers us a vivid picture of the struggles of one woman against the system. The book movingly chronicles her childhood in a loving, untraditional family, her upbringing before the Revolution in 1979 that toppled the Shah, her marriage and her religious faith, as well as her life as a mother and lawyer battling an oppressive regime in the courts while bringing up her girls at home.
Outspoken, controversial, Shirin Ebadi is one of the most fascinating women today. She rose quickly to become the first female judge in the country; but when the religious authorities declared women unfit to serve as judges she was demoted to clerk in the courtroom she had once presided over. She eventually fought her way back as a human rights lawyer, defending women and children in politically charged cases that most lawyers were afraid to represent. She has been arrested and been the target of assassination, but through it all has spoken out with quiet bravery on behalf of the victims of injustice and discrimination and become a powerful voice for change, almost universally embraced as a hero.
Her memoir is a gripping story — a must-read for anyone interested in Zara Kazemi's case, in the life of a remarkable woman, or in understandingthe political and religious upheaval in our world.
"Human rights activist and winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, Ebadi courageously recounts her life in Iran in this memoir, publishable here only after she brought the U.S. government to court to challenge the Treasury Department's sanctions policy. Collaborating with Moaveni (Lipstick Jihad), Ebadi guides readers through the turbulent recent history of her country. A young judge and pro-revolution activist under the repressive government of the shah, Ebadi says of the Iranian revolution, 'We felt as if we had reclaimed a dignity that, until recently, many of us had not even realized we had lost.' Her hopes were quickly dashed as it became clear that the Islamic Republic was more concerned with her lack of a headscarf than with her legal reasoning abilities, and she uses the bulk of her book to explain her decision to remain in Iran and brave the challenges faced by independent-minded citizens of a theocracy. Ebadi provides a revealing glimpse into a deeply insular society. She is at her best when discussing the hapless reform movement led by former president Khatami: for instance, though over a dozen moderate women were elected to the national assembly in 2000, they lacked the power to have the women's conference room furnished with chairs." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Millions of Iranian women were sidelined by Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, but few fought back the way Shirin Ebadi did. She had become Iran's foremost woman jurist by the 1970s, but Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's theocracy stripped her of her judgeship in 1980. Her steely tenacity enabled her to take on a new role as a human rights lawyer battling for justice in Iran's revolutionary courts — a fight... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) that won her the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize and brought her face to face with the terror her clients confronted. In the fall of 2000, as she studied a dossier about the premeditated killings of dissidents that was made available after a judicial investigation, her gaze fell on a chilling sentence: 'The next person to be killed is Shirin Ebadi.' Her new memoir, 'Iran Awakening,' is a riveting account of her brave, lonely struggle to take Islamist jurists to task for betraying the promises of their own revolution. Life was supposed to improve for Iranians after the despotic rule of the U.S.-backed shah. But rather than protect its citizens, the new government set upon a cruel track. Ebadi's tale is told from both the perspective of an ordinary mother and wife and that of an extraordinary lawyer determined, despite the ruthless reign of the ayatollahs, to do what is right. In her dealings with the grim and arbitrary judicial machinery in Islamist Iran, Ebadi demonstrates that her own patriotism is beyond reproach. She faces her foes with cunning and the quiet calculation of a superb chess player. The resulting book (written with the help of Azadeh Moaveni, a Time magazine correspondent) sometimes reads like a police thriller, its drama heightened by Ebadi's determination to keep up the quotidian aspects of her family life. She goes through the daily rituals of washing dishes and mincing fresh herbs before dinner, preparing meals ahead of time as she maps out her game plan to embarrass the regime. 'Iran Awakening' is not a literary work but an insider's view of the merciless daily grind that drives women to struggle, submission or suicide; Ebadi's reactions are sometimes movingly normal, as when she tries to insulate her own two daughters from the terror by doing something as ordinary as taking them skiing — which, it turns out, requires this 40-something mom to get permission from her own mother. In the courtroom, however, Ebadi stands on her own two feet. Her strategy is tough and forceful. The description of her own imprisonment — she was jailed in June 2000 for videotaping the testimony of a key witness in the case of a young activist killed during the previous year's student riots — offers a rare glimpse inside Tehran's notorious Evin prison. One guard, assuming that any female inmate must be a prostitute, asks the dignified dissident whether she is there 'for a moral offense,' which reduces her to hysterical laughter. Her mirth soon fades. 'It was so odd to me, how the rhythm of prison life became familiar,' she writes. 'The personality quirks of the guards, the dank, dusty smell of the cells, even the howls of the addicts seemed normal to me after a couple of days.' Despite her opinion of the ruling mullahs, Ebadi continues to believe that Islam, or a progressive version of it, is compatible with modern democracy. Not everyone may agree with her, but her passion to prove the point is formidable. Returning home three years ago as a Nobel laureate, she was greeted at Tehran's airport by a mostly female throng, including a group of students singing 'Yar-e Dabestani,' the adopted anthem of Iran's 'young pro-democracy organizers,' a sorrowful, bittersweet yet galvanizing song used to lift spirits at sit-ins and gatherings. Its lyrics ask, 'Whose hands but mine and yours can pull back these curtains?' Those curtains are far from lifted. 'I am not free enough to write what I want to write,' Ebadi said in a recent interview. But she adds: 'I am willing to be tried in any court for what I said in this book.' It is being published in 16 languages. But not Farsi, the language of Iran. Nora Boustany, a veteran Middle East reporter, writes The Washington Post's 'Diplomatic Dispatches' column." Reviewed by Nora Boustany, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"This is the riveting story of an amazing and very brave woman living through some quite turbulent times. And she emerges with head unbowed." Archbishop Desmond Tutu
"An admirable account that will be of special interest to those keeping their eyes on the Middle East." Kirkus Reviews
"The safety and freedom of citizens in democracies is irretrievably bound with the safety and freedom of people like Shirin Ebadi who are fighting to reassert the best achievements of mankind: universal human rights. One of the staunchest advocates for human rights in her country and beyond, Ms. Ebadi, herself a devout Muslim, represents hope for many in Muslim societies that Islam and democracy are indeed compatible." Azar Nafisi
About the Author
Shirin Ebadi is one of the leading human rights activists in the world. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. She continues to work as a lawyer in Tehran while also lecturing widely around the world.
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