Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi has a lot on her mind these days. She's spent her life working for the defense of human rights in her home country of Iran, but the reformists she sympathizes with are on the defensive, reeling from years of harsh repression. For the past three years she's been living in virtual exile in an undisclosed location in Western Europe, unable to return home without fear of arrest. The government has seized her property (including her Nobel Prize medal) and subjected her family members to harassment and detention. Now she spends her days traveling the world, fighting to draw attention to the abuses of human rights by the government in Tehran. "I feel it's my duty to help bring the voices of activists, and my comrades who are in prison, to the world," she says.
But now she has something even more serious to worry about: What if Israel launches a military strike against Iran? What if the crisis over Iran's nuclear program escalates out of control and spreads across the region?
The Israeli media have warned in recent weeks that a military attack may be imminent, since a presumed window allowing Israel to strike at Iran's nuclear program may close soon. The Israeli government claims that Iran's quest to continue with its nuclear program poses a serious threat, especially now that Iran seems to have expedited its efforts to enrich uranium -- a key stop on the path to building a nuclear bomb. The Iranian regime has maintained a hostile position toward Israel since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979.
More from Democracy Lab
- The Ukrainian President's Big Broken Promise
- The Heretical Pope Francis vs. Rush Limbaugh
- A Deeper Shade of Orange
Iran contends that its nuclear program is peaceful, intended solely for power generation to bolster up a beleaguered economy. In any case, analysts have warned that a military strike is unlikely to halt the program and may only delay it for a few years. Iran has sheltered its nuclear facilities deep underground to protect from any possible military strikes, and has vowed that it would retaliate harshly if it comes under attack.
But Ebadi points to another problem. War with Israel, she says, may rescue the Iranian regime at a time when it is extremely unpopular at home and is clinging to power with an iron fist. "It is the only thing that can save the regime," she said. "A war will stir nationalistic feelings and rally the people behind the government to defend the country. It will be catastrophic for the [Iranian] people, the country, and the region, but it will save Iran's rulers."