Shirin Ebadi spoke to an enormous crowd in the Union Theater Monday night on democracy and human rights in Iran, and Iran's relationship with the U.S.
"Violence begets violence and as a result, groups of innocent people are dying," Ebadi said through a translator. "Let us sow the seeds for trees of cooperation like the earth. Let us be kind to one another, truly kind."
DLS Director Eric Schmidt called Ebadi one of the most prestigious guests the lecture series has ever hosted.
"Ebadi is the most current Nobel laureate that we have hosted, and it's such a thrill to visit with her already and to hear her talk tonight," Schmidt said.
Ebadi said the only solution to some of the Middle East region's issues is for the United States to give up its protection of states in the region.
"It has to stop selling weapons to them for awhile. It has to minimize its diplomatic relations with countries that do not have parliaments so that the anti-American feeling subsides for them," Ebadi said. "People don't understand that simply chanting ‘Death to Americans' slogans does not fill empty stomachs of people in need."
UW sophomore Christa Rubenzer said she had heard about Ebadi in her Middle Eastern Studies class and had come to hear her speak for extra credit.
"To be honest, I didn't know much about Iranian culture and the legality issues there, and it was interesting to hear about the lack of women's and children's rights. I learned a lot and I really enjoyed it," Rubenzer said.
Ebadi received the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, distinguishing her as one of the world's most prominent human rights activists. She is an Iranian lawyer who strongly advocates for women's and children's rights, and she has published several best-selling novels, including "Iran Awakening," which was sold at the event.
"In a classical sense, [democracy] means the vote of the majority. A majority who comes to power is only allowed to operate within the framework of democracy," Ebadi said.
According to Ebadi, human rights are the framework of democracy and governments can only operate by respecting human rights laws and regulations; democracy is not simply a gift given to a nation.
"She speaks in a voice previously unheard by me: an Iranian woman who cares for her region — the Middle East," said Evan Bretzmann, a UW sophomore. "As Americans and individuals, we must hear this voice if we desire peace. She warns of the dangers of political manipulation, of religion, and also ideology — a sentiment Americans must understand and criticize in the upcoming election."
Bretzmann also said that Ebadi shed light on American foreign policy in the Middle East, which she claimed is a policy hollow of genuine care for peace in her region.
Ebadi had a pre-program event at Chadbourne Residential College, a dinner talk and a graduate seminar earlier on Monday, according to Schmidt.