Ausma Khan and Nader Hashemi write: The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi sends a message both to the old guard within Muslim societies who resist democratic reform and to the neoconservatives in Washington who support forceful regime change in the Muslim world: The path to change is best led by indigenous activists committed to democracy, human rights and nonviolence. Ebadi advocates a new interpretation of Islamic law exemplified by all citizens’ equality before the law, religious freedom and freedom of speech. She has fought tirelessly, at great personal risk, for children’s, women’s and prisoners’ rights. She represented the families of intellectuals and writers murdered in 1998-99 and worked to expose those responsible for the death of student activists in 1999. By drawing international attention to the movement for human rights and democracy in Iran, Ebadi’s award will make it harder for the clerical establishment to repress that struggle–and harder for the Bush Administration to ignore Iranians’ efforts to achieve regime change on their own.
THE RON RIDENHOUR AWARDS
With the tightly closed, repressive Administration now in power America has never so badly needed those brave, public-spirited truth-tellers popularly known as whistleblowers. As Anna Quindlen wrote in Newsweek, “Whistle-blowers have become the new heroes…a bridge between power and humanity.” During the Vietnam War, Ron Ridenhour, a former soldier, revealed firsthand the truth about the My Lai massacre and in so doing, helped turn public opinion against a war that was rotting the nation’s moral fiber. He went on to a career as an independent investigative reporter, until his too-early death in 1998 at the age of 52. In his memory and to encourage more people to follow his example, the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute established the Ron Ridenhour Awards to honor current and future whistleblowers and truth-tellers. The first set of three awards were presented October 15 in Washington. The Prize for Truth-Telling went to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who blew the whistle on the Administration’s false claim that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger. As he wrote in the New York Times, “America’s foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information.” The Book Prize went to Deborah Scroggins for Emma’s War: An Aid Worker, a Warlord, Radical Islam, and the Politics of Oil (Pantheon). Her book was cited for helping readers understand the global issues reflected in the civil war in Sudan through the story of a British aid worker who married a warlord. The Courage Award, which recognizes an individual for a lifelong, courageous commitment to the public interest and social justice, was given to Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers exposed the march of folly that led to the Vietnam War and the narrow policies of secrecy that kept this information out of the hands of the people. These lessons seem particularly important today. The Ridenhour Awards carry a prize of $10,000 each.
Matt Bivens’s Outrage of the Week: The extreme rage-filled Republicans have finally won in Texas. It meant turning their state into a joke–though they got a lot of cover from fellow national joke, California–and pulling law officers off counterterrorism to “look for Democrats” and, when that failed, threatening to hire bounty hunters to kidnap Democrats. But no doubt it was all worth it, because they’ve finally succeeded in legislating Democrats out of existence. At least until the courts weigh in.