Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has told RFE/RL that the Iranian authorities should hold a new election and allow monitoring by international observers. She also called for the release of everyone the regime has arrested, which includes several human rights activists. Ebadi spoke by phone with RFE/RL's Golnaz Esfandiari from a location outside Iran.
RFE/RL: As you know, Iran has been rocked by violent protests the past few days as people have protested the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and accused the government of massive fraud. Ahmadinejad and others say the election results reflect the will of the people. You are watching the situation closely. What’s your view? Was it a real election?
Shirin Ebadi: The Iranian people are expressing doubt and questioning the election [results]. Millions of people have come to the streets and expressed their demands in a very peaceful manner. Unfortunately, their peaceful demands have been met with violent reactions; we saw at least [seven people] killed in the streets and a number of dead at Tehran University [during an attack by security forces]. There are also many injured.
[The violent response by the authorities] has been so intense that it has caused anger and has been questioned among the members of the parliament. Some of the professors have protested against it and I hope the situation will move in a direction that the people's demands will be taken into account.
RFE/RL: What steps should the Iranian establishment take to respect people’s demands? The Guardians Council has said it is ready for a recount but the reformists and people who are protesting in the streets want more than that.
Ebadi: First of all I have to say that of those who have been arrested [in recent days] must be released without any conditions. Why have the [authorities] arrested people? Just because they have been expressing their protests in a civic and peaceful manner -- including [protesting] the arrest of human rights advocate Abdol Fatah Soltani, former vice president [Mohammad Ali Abtahi], and [senior reformist figure] Saeed Hajjarian -- who is in poor physical condition -- and all the others who have been arrested. Citing the names of all of them would take too long.
Why there should be such a reaction? So all those arrested must be released and then the demand of the people and of the [defeated] presidential candidate should be met in way that the public is satisfied.
RFE/RL: But how? What concrete measures should be taken? Should there be a recount or a rerun of the election?
Ebadi: I believe that a recount of the votes under the current conditions won't solve anything. A new election must be held and this time it should be under the monitoring of international organizations so that all participants would be contented that the votes that come out of the ballot boxes are the real votes of the people.
RFE/RL: Do you think the Iranian establishment would accept such demand? The supreme leader has congratulated President Ahmadinejad on his disputed reelection and Ahmadinejad has said that the election was free and fair.
Ebadi: I hope that rationality will win and that the rightful and legitimate demand of the people [will be] responded to.
RFE/RL: What if the establishment refuses to hold a new vote? What then?
Ebadi: It's not easy to predict the future so I prefer to speak about the current situation and I would like to say that the best [outcome] would be to hold a new election monitored by international organizations that are trusted by the people of Iran and the world.
RFE/RL: Do you think the protests will continue despite repression by the authorities?
Ebadi: So far [the protests] are going on, but my demand, and the demand of all the people, is that those who are protesting do it peacefully.