K's Reviews > Iran Awakening

Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi
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's review
Jul 05, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: mideastwomen, memoirs, thank-god-i-wasn-t-born-there

Definitely one of the better books on Iran from an insider's perspective.

Shirin Ebadi grew up in pre-revolutionary Iran, where she studied law and became a judge at the age of 23. After the revolution, Ebadi was forced to resign her position because she was a woman and was relegated to the position of frustrated clerk. Eventually she was able to work as a lawyer and became an activist on behalf of Iranian women, children, and political dissidents. In her memoir, Ebadi chronicles not only the events of her adult life but the ebb and flow of political unrest in Iran itself over the post-revolution decades.

Ebadi's brave struggle was admirable, reminiscent of Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Infidel. I was a bit confused, though, at her ability to engage in such subversive activities and emerge relatively unscathed. She writes about successfully getting the Iranian media to arouse sympathy for her defendants -- what about censorship? And although she was officially on a death list, she was never actually killed and was only imprisoned once, for a relatively short term. Marina Nemat of Prisoner of Tehran: A Memoir suffered a great deal more for far lesser crimes. I know life in Iran can defy logic but I still felt confused, even more so when Ebadi made oblique references to knowing the government would never harm her (although she did fear for her daughters). Why would the government never harm her? What protection did she have?

With that said, Ebadi's memoir is readable and engaging and her story fascinates. Ebadi's position on the West is also interesting -- although one would expect her to embrace American ideals, Ebadi actually airs her frank disapproval of American involvement in Iran, feeling that Iran needs to get to a better place without America's intrusion. Ebadi never apologizes for Iran but her love for and loyalty to her country come through loud and clear, to the point where she expresses resentment of friends who fled after the revolution. To me, this is why her perspective is so important and relevant -- Ebadi criticizes Iran not as an embittered and disillusioned individual who idealizes the West, but as a proud Iranian who wants to see Iran regain its own unique stance.
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