2022 Commencement Address by Dr. Shirin Ebadi

May 27, 2022

Shirin Ebadi gives her 2022 Commencement Speech

Let’s spread friendship like the wind. Let’s sow the seed of collaboration like the earth. Let’s give like the sun. Let’s fight injustice and prejudice angrily and fiercely. Let’s be kind to each other, kind.

Honorable President of the University and dear professors,

I am grateful for the award of the highest honor, which makes me a member of your educational family. I hereby congratulate all graduates of this year and hope that they will be successful in the future, as they have been in the past, becoming global citizens committed to contributing to justice and peace in the society.

Also, I would like to pay tribute and respect to the founder of this university, Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, and the president of the university, Professor Feasel, all professors, and those who work at the different departments of this university.

Dear all,

Unfortunately, in many countries during the last twenty years, democracy and democratic institutions have taken a step back. The reason for it is that the citizens do not pay enough attention to the gifts of democracy. Citizens’ duties are not only participation in elections and the ballot box. The more important duty of citizens is supervising democracy very carefully. The activities of all of those who have been elected have to be supervised, so that they perform their duties to the best of their ability.

We cannot be indifferent to the activities of those that have been elected by us. The most important reason of the backsliding of democracy is the indifference of citizens. Also, we should not let achievements such as equality and negation of discrimination slide backwards.

I want to bring up the issue of abortion, which is a women’s rights issue. Women’s bodies belong to women and no one else has the right to determine what a woman does with her own body. At the present time the matter has been brought to the Supreme Court of the United States and may result in the loss of that right. Therefore, we must peacefully defend the right and not let a matter of discrimination backslide.

Let’s remember that by losing this right, we may end up losing other rights and the formal recognition of the LGBT community.

After the military attack of Russia on Ukraine, over six million people have had to leave their country. Opposition to Putin, who is the aggressor, is our moral duty. Let’s not forget that if Putin wins this war a great danger threatens the world. After Ukraine it may be other European countries’ turn, and the dark memories of the Cold War will be repeated. There is no doubt that Ukrainian refugees have to be helped and I hope that the United States will help transfer them to safe havens.

However, there is a question pending in this regard. Are the other refugees who are Muslims and people of color, fleeing wars in their countries, treated the same as Ukrainian refugees?

Should discrimination be the case, continuing such discriminatory behavior is an example of backsliding of the principle of Equality of Human Beings, and we should not be indifferent to it.

Discrimination and injustice can spread like a virus in the society. Injustice to you is the first step of injustice to me. Let’s not be indifferent!

In light of the above principle, Human Rights Defenders and myself have been continuously working. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, discriminatory laws on the basis of gender, religion and ethnicity were imposed on the people of Iran. Drinking alcohol is punished by 80 lashes. Not only abortion, but contraceptive is also prohibited. Out of wedlock sexual relationship is a crime punishable by a minimum of 100 lashes of flogging and can result in stoning of the perpetrator. Many other discriminatory laws have passed as well. In order to justify its oppression, the Dictatorship in Iran needs an enemy. Therefore, it introduces America as its eternal enemy. The Government of Iran did not permit American vaccines in Iran, even during the pandemic, which resulted in extensive deaths.

Along with the people of Iran, I am against such government and will do everything in my power to become the voice of the people of Iran. I have paid a big price in this regard as well. I was imprisoned, all of my property and my house have been confiscated. I have been living in exile, away from my family and country. However, it should not be forgotten that there is a price to be paid for democracy and freedom. As result of the struggles of the Iranian people, specifically women, we have had a few successes and have been able to change a few laws, such as the law of custody, but we have a long path to traverse to get to a secular and democratic government. We will not stop for a second and know that the people of Iran will prevail. The day of victory and the end of dictatorship is close. It is then that the friendship of Iran and America will resume. Long live the friendship of the people of Iran and the people of the United States.

We are all on the same boat. The destiny of humans are interconnected. The Pandemic of Corona proved that the health of us in America depends on the health of those who live in Africa or Asia. So, let’s wish for others a world like the one that we enjoy.

Let’s spread friendship like the wind,
Let’s sow the seed of collaboration like the earth,
Let’s give like the sun,
Let’s fight injustice and prejudice angrily and fiercely,
Let’s be kind to each other, kind.

Thank you.