Nobel Peace Prize winner, celebrated author and political activist Shirin Ebadi spoke Tuesday night to 1,000 attendees at the Performing Arts Center.
Reza Akhavain, an electrical engineering senior and president of Persian Students of Cal Poly, introduced the evening’s honored guest speaker by delivering a quote that he said summed up the essence of the woman in question.
“Dr. Ebadi has worked to give a voice to those with no voice,” Akhavain said.
During the 90 minutes that followed, Ebadi delivered a speech punctuated throughout by studious silence, agreeable laughter and thundering applause.
Early in the speech, the audience roared with applause after Ebadi extolled the positive wisdom of keeping government and academia issues separate.
“I certainly hope that the misjudged policies of the Iranian government, as well as the misguided policies of your government here, will not affect academic and cultural exchanges and issues,” Ebadi said.
Toward the end of her speech, Ebadi was asked her opinion concerning the strain between Iran and the United States.
Ebadi’s response was simple and the audience response was immediate.
“The biggest problem between Iranian and U.S. relations is the two current presidents,” Ebadi said.
Faryal Saiidnia, a civil engineering senior and the social chair of Persian Students of Cal Poly, said that bringing Ebadi to Cal Poly involved quite a bit of time and energy.
“We actually started the process during spring quarter of last year,” Saiidnia said. “One of our member’s parents actually hand-delivered the invitation to her in Iran. In December, we got the go-ahead that she would love to speak at Cal Poly.”
Negisa Taymourian, a business junior and secretary of Persian Students of Cal Poly, said that Ebadi’s speech left her enlightened toward women’s issues.
“I definitely felt that I had a lot to learn from Dr. Ebadi’s speech,” Taymourian said. “The laws that she stated as examples of the status that women have in Iran were something that I wasn’t even aware of.”
Ebadi’s accomplishments are numerous.
Ebadi was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the area of human rights and equality.
Among several other published novels, she is the co-author of the 2006 autobiographical memoir, “Iran Awakening.”
Her political activism defending the rights of women and children alike has garnered worldwide attention.
After earning a doctorate in law from the University of Tehran, Ebadi became one of the first female judges in Iran.
Between 1975 and 1979, Ebadi became president of the city court of Tehran.
Ebadi said she is passionate about her beliefs, her ideals and the causes in which she chooses to become involved.
Ebadi readily admits that she is a controversial figure, especially within her own country. The two burly bodyguards that accompany her are testament to her safety precautions.
In the speech, Ebadi talked about some of the retaliation she has personally experienced for her views.
“I have been to prison once before. I have evaded a number of assassination attempts,” she said.
“Thank the Lord I am here with you tonight, God only knows what will happen when I leave tomorrow.”