The Nobel Peace Prize this year is awarded to a woman, a woman from Iran, a country where the majority practice the muslim faith in the Middle East.
This award given to me will inspire the masses of women, not only in Iran but also throughout the larger, surrounding geographical area — women who strive to realize their rights, rights that have been taken away from them as time has past.
My being selected as a Peace Prize winner will allow women in Iran, and those much further from the borders of my country, a greater freedom to believe in themselves. Women make up half of the population of every country. By disregarding women and baring them from active participation in political, social, economic and cultural life is de facto depriving the entire population of society of half of its capability. Patriarchal cultures that encourage discrimination against women, cultural traits that today are more observable in the Islamic countries, cannot continue forever.
For all those who love freedom, who seek peace and humanitarian goals, whether they are women or men, the honour of this prize makes a strong, immediate impression and will bring blessings both on the endeavours of the people of Iran and on the greater area.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Today is the 55th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a declaration that starts with a recognition of the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights that all members of the human family should have.
It promises a world in which human beings may enjoy freedoms of expression and opinions, and a world where human beings shall be safeguarded and protected against fear and poverty. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights acts as the embodiment and surety of freedom, justice and peace.
Unfortunately, the report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this year, as in the previous years, is far from the ideals of the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 1.2 billion people today live in poverty. In 2002 almost 1.2 billion human beings earned less than one dollar a day.
In 2002 more than 50 countries were either engaged in war or were suffering from large natural disasters. AIDS, has to date claimed the lives of 22 million individuals, a loss of life which has created 13 million orphan children.
States using violence
We have also seen at the same time certain states using the violence of the activities of September 11, 2001 as an excuse to violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its laws and principals. The professed purpose being a war on international terrorism.
The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 57/219, of 18 December 2002, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1456, of 20 January 2003, and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2003/68, of 25 April 2003, explicitly state that all nations must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorist activity comply with all obligations under international law, in particular international human rights and humanitarian law.
Instead we see special bodies and extraordinary courts; we see regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms. These regulations are both justified and given legitimacy under the banner of the war on terrorism.
These special bodies and extraordinary courts make all seen adjudication, consistent with law and lawful rules and logic, difficult and at times impossible. All of this is given legitimacy in the name of a war on terrorism.
Human rights laws violated in Western democracies
When international human rights laws are violated in the instances of recognized opponents — opponents who believe that a culture can only be truly elevated by their own standards and not by any common criteria — there is apprehension by human rights' advocates.
But this apprehension increases when international human rights laws are seen to be violated in Western democracies, in countries that were themselves among the initial codifiers of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
For months, hundreds of individuals arrested in the course of military conflicts — imprisoned in Guantanamo — have been held without the benefit of rights stipulated under the international Geneva conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Why are certain decisions and resolutions of the UN Security Council considered binding, while others not?
For the past number of years, there has been a question which millions of citizens in the international civil society have been asking themselves. This question they continue to ask, particularly in recent months. Why are certain decisions and resolutions of the UN Security Council considered binding, while other equal resolutions of the council considered to have no such binding force?
Why have dozens of UN resolutions pertaining to the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel — resolutions past over the past 35 years — not been implemented, or have not been implemented correctly?
Concerning the state and people of Iraq however, we have seen — in the past 12 years — that only one recommendation of the Security Council brought immediate action, action that included sustained economic sanctions.
We have seen in this past year that even when the UN Security Council were opposed to the measure brought before it, even despite this, that the country has been subjected to military assault and military occupation.
I am Iranian. I am a descendent of Cyrus The Great. The very emperor who proclaimed at the pinnacle of his power 2500 years ago that he would not reign over the people if they did not wish it. He made the promise not to force any person to change either his religion or faith. He guaranteed freedom for all.
The grant from the sovereign, announced officially and publicly by Cyrus the Great, is one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights.
Advent of Islam
I am a Muslim. In the teaching of the Holy Qur'an, the Prophet of Islam has been illustrated as saying: “You shall believe in your faith as I believe in my religion.”
The Holy Qur'an considers the mission of all prophets as a mission to ask all people to uphold justice.
The advent of Islam into the culture of Iran has been marked by progress in the arts and sciences, and in the complex political and social institutions.
It has seen great Iranian literature, in particular our literature from Hafez, from the beloved Maulana Jalalu’ddin Rumi, our literature from Fariduddin Attar, from Saadi Shirazi, Sanaei, Nasir Khusraw and Nizami Ganjawi.
These are all emissaries of our humanitarian culture. Their message embodies itself in the poem by Saadi:
The sons of Adam act as limbs to each other, having been created from one center.
When the misfortune of an era harms one such limb, the others cannot continue to rest.
For more than a hundred years, the Iranian people have been following, each after another, the opposing forces of tradition and modernity.
Caravan of civilization
Seeking the values of former times, some are trying to administer the problems they face today by the values used by ancient forefathers.
But, many others, while still respecting historical and cultural beginnings, and the religion and faith, seek to be a part of a moving caravan of civilization, to be a part of modern development and progress.
Consistent with this the Iranian people, particularly in the recent years, have sought to participate in government. In this participation they consider devotion to the public welfare to be the right of all. They also wish to be masters of their own destiny.
People aware of their rights cannot easily be beaten down
Such conflicting forces can be observed in many Muslim states, not merely in Iran. There are Muslims who say Islamic teachings, and the present traditional structure of Islamic societies, are not compatible with democracy. By this they excuse despotic governments.
The reality is that a people who are aware of their rights cannot easily be beaten down by the use of patriarchal and paternalistic custom.
Note that Islam is a religion where the first expression of thought to the Prophet began with the word “Relate.”
The Holy Book swears by the pen and what is written upon its pages. Such an expression is not in conflict with our diverse understandings, our varied components of awareness, of knowledge, of wisdom, and our wish for the freedom to have an opinion and a statement.
Patriarchal and male-dominated accepted behavior
Islam does not preach discrimination against women. All too often in the arena of civil law, in the province of social, political and cultural justice, it is the patriarchal and male-dominated accepted behavior patterns that achieves success in Islamic states.
Such patriarchal and male-dominated accepted behavior patterns cannot tolerate attitudes of freedom and democracy.
It cannot accept the concept of equal rights for men and women, nor the ridding of women from male authority (fathers, husbands, brothers, etc), for to do so threatens the historical and traditional position held by the rulers and guardians of this patriarchal culture.
We need to say to these that if you believe in the precedence and higher value of parliamentary democracy above other political systems, then you cannot think only of your own security and comfort, selfishly and despicably.
If you consider international human rights laws, including a nations' right to decide their own course of action, to be universal, then you can no longer allow the stagnation of policies that prevail in this region.
A journey we are taking
The enjoyment of human rights and democracy in this region is a journey we are taking, and, while maintaining political independence and territorial integrity of each respective country, we in this region must seek, with top priority given by the United Nations with respect to future occurrence that involve international relations, to search for new ideas to enable us to continue to proceede upon this journey.
I am inspired by winning the Nobel Peace Prize of 2003, as the first Iranian, and as the first woman from a Muslim country.
Millions of Iranians and peoples of the nations of Islamic states are encouraged and urged forward toward the realization of human rights and the establishment of democracy in their respective countries by the decision of the Nobel Peace Committee.
They see this as the support and backing and solidarity of international civil society. This prize belongs to the people of Iran. It belongs to the people of the Islamic states, and to the people of the whole area as a beacon for establishing human rights and democracy.
Human rights, surety for freedom
Human rights acts as the surety for freedom, for justice and for peace. If human rights fail, if that which is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in its preamble, fails to be manifested in codified laws, or placed into a condition of power by states, then human beings are left with no choice but to stage a rebellion, to make warfare against tyranny and oppression.
If the 21st century wishes to free itself from the cycle of violence, from acts of terror and war, if the world wishes to avoid a repetition of the experience of the 20th century — a most destructive, catastrophic-ridden century of humankind — then there is no other way but human rights.
A person who has been shorn of all dignity, a human who has been deprived of their human rights, a human who is being gripped by starvation, being beaten by famine, by war and by illness, a humiliated man, woman or child, a plundered human, is not in any position or state to recover the rights he or she has lost.
Know there is no other way for us as a world but to take the path of understanding, and to ensure that every human right for all humankind is observed, irrespective of gender, race, religion, nationality and social status.
I wait with anticipation.