Nobel peace laureate Ebadi urges Iranians to keep up protests

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Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has urged the people of Iran to engage in civil disobedience and press on with nationwide protests that are posing the boldest challenge to its leaders since pro-reform
unrest in 2009.

The pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat quoted Iran’s most famous human rights lawyer as saying Iranians should stay on the street and that the constitution gives them the right to protest. Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have deployed forces to three provinces to put down anti-government unrest after six days of protests that have rattled the clerical leadership and killed 21 people.

The protests, which began over economic hardships suffered by the young and working class, have evolved into a rising against the powers and privileges of a remote elite, especially Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The demonstrations seem to be spontaneous and without a clear leader, cropping up in working-class neighborhoods and smaller cities, but the movement also seems to be gaining traction among the educated middle class and activists who took part in the 2009 protests.

Economic pressure

Ebadi called on Iranians to stop paying water, gas and electricity bills and taxes and to withdraw their money from state banks to exert economic pressure on the government and so force it to stop resorting to violence and meet their demands.

“If the government has not listened to you for 38 years your role has come to ignore what the government says to you now,” Asharq Al-Awsat quoted Ebadi as saying in an interview. Ebadi, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, is one of a number of exiled critics of Iran’s leadership.

The unrest has drawn sharply varied responses internationally, with Europeans expressing unease at the delighted reaction by US and Israeli leaders to the display of opposition to Iran’s clerical establishment.

In a sign of official concern about the resilience of the protests, Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said he had sent forces to Hamadan, Isfahan and Lorestan provinces to tackle “the new sedition”.