Shirin Ebadi is a Nobel Prize laureate, lawyer, human rights activist and fierce critic of the Iranian regime. Yet despite her opposition to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies, she opposes the current sanctions against Iran because they "hurt the Iranian people."
"Prices have augmented and internal production has gone down as primal resources are not accessible," she told The Huffington Post in a phone interview Friday. Sanctions should instead serve primarily to weaken the government, she said.
Ebadi is on a tour of the United States and recently released a new book, "The Golden Cage: Three Brothers, Three Choices, One Destiny."
The Nobel laureate is also critical of current international strategies to engage Iran in negotiations on its nuclear program, arguing they do little to improve the lives of people living in Iran. She said the United States should not be leaving human rights off the agenda in the ongoing round of talks between Iran and six world powers. Earlier this month, Tehran agreed to take part in international negotiations in Istanbul.
"Maybe the Americans only want to talk about nuclear energy because the security of the American people is more important than the destiny of the Iranian people," Ebadi said. "Yet what brings sustainable peace in the region is democracy. Democracy is good for the people of Iran and it would eradicate the danger against America."
Ebadi maintains that Iranians do not support the regime's nuclear policy, and says that the nuclear issue would be easily resolved in a democratic society. If human rights were a condition during negotiations, the international community could force Iran to comply with human rights standards, she argues.
Ebadi was born in 1947 to a family of practicing Muslims. She studied law and became the first female judge in the history of Iran when she was in her 30s. However, Ebadi was forced to leave the post in the wake of Iran's 1979 revolution, when all female judges in the Islamic Republic were dismissed and given clerical functions. She started her own law practice in 1992, taking up many prominent human rights cases.
In 2003, she became the first Muslim woman and the first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The award committee awarded her efforts for democracy and human rights and lauded her for speaking out "clearly and strongly" in her country "and far beyond its borders."
Ebadi left Iran after the contested presidential elections in 2009 and has not returned since then. According to BBC, Ebadi said that she had received "threatening messages" and that her husband was arrested and severely beaten in Tehran.