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Title: Iranian Nobel winner launches Irish university network to protect academics
Publication: SAR Press Release
Author: SAR
Country: Ireland
Published Date:
September 23, 2009


The Irish Section of Scholars at Risk was launched by Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Shirin Ebadi at an event in the Robert Emmett Theatre in Trinity College, Dublin, yesterday (22/09). This new partnership between Universities Ireland and the global Scholars at Risk network will provide support to threatened academics around the world, including by arranging temporary placements in Ireland to allow them to safely continue their work.Dr Ebadi was appointed Iran’s first-ever female judge in 1975 but was forced to resign in 1979 after the revolution. Since then, in spite of imprisonment and multiple death threats to her and her family, she has devoted her life to the protection of women’s rights and the defence of children and political activists.

Robert Quinn, Executive Director of Scholars at Risk, said: “We are delighted to celebrate the launch of our Irish Section. The practical help from Irish universities that will now be available to courageous intellectual leaders at risk in many countries today will help to save lives.

“Universities and scholars work to produce knowledge for the benefit of everyone, and we need efforts like this to protect their ability to meet this important mission.

“In joining the Scholars at Risk network, Irish universities and academics are sending a strong signal of support and solidarity to universities and colleagues in situations where academic freedom is restricted, and research, publication, teaching and learning repressed.”

Professor Richard Barnett, Chair of Universities Ireland and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster, who chaired the event said: “We are very proud to have Dr Shirin Ebadi with us to formally launch the section. She is a courageous example of the kinds of teachers, academics and scholars around the world who face great personal risk for their work.

“In her we see the proof that one person can make a difference if they refuse to be silenced, no matter the cost. The Irish Section of Scholars at Risk – managed by Universities Ireland on behalf of Ireland’s nine universities – will work to help scholars like her, her colleagues in Iran and everywhere.”

Professor Barnett also thanked Amnesty International Ireland, the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublin for their participation in the event.

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “In our Annual Report on the state of the world’s human rights earlier this year we identified over 80 countries where the right to freedom of expression was restricted or denied.

“Academics and scholars can face grave personal risk when their ideas or arguments are seen as threatening to a government, or an opposition group, prepared to use violence to silence them.

“Scholars at Risk makes an enormous contribution to the protection of human rights by the work that it does defending these men and women, and the human rights to freedom of speech and expression.”

Background Information
Scholars at Risk is an international network of over 215 universities and colleges in over 26 countries working to defend the human rights of scholars around the world. It advocates on behalf of academics who have been persecuted or otherwise threatened in their home country. SAR undertakes a range of activities including direct assistance to scholars, human rights advocacy, education and training. More information at www.scholarsatrisk.org.

In 2003, Dr Shirin Ebadi became the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. A human rights lawyer, university lecturer and author, Dr Ebadi was awarded the Prize for her pioneering efforts to promote democracy and human rights in Iran. Dr Ebadi was Iran's first-ever female judge in 1975. However, following the Iranian revolution in 1979 she was forced to resign, as women were no longer allowed to serve as judges.

For the next two decades, Ebadi devoted her life to the promotion of women’s rights and the defence of children and political activists. She co-founded the Association for Support of Children's Rights and the Human Rights Defence Centre and became known outside Iran for her clashes with the country's ruling clerics. In 2000, she spent a month in solitary confinement as a result of defending the family of a student killed by the police in protests in Tehran.

In the course of her career, she has received multiple death threats against her and her family. Dr Ebadi’s work for human rights in Iran has won her admiration and respect across the globe. Her recent publications include: Democracy, human rights, and Islam in modern Iran (2003), Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope (2006) and Refugee Rights in Iran (2008).


For further information please contact:

Sinead O’Gorman, Deputy Director, Scholars at Risk, sinead.ogorman@nyu.edu, Tel: +1-212-998-2179


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