Thursday, Apr. 29, 2010

Zahra Rahnavard

Mir-Hossein Mousavi may be the face of Iran's Green protest movement, but the government fears his wife just as much. Even before the 2009 election, Zahra Rahnavard, 64, a committed artist, inspired educator and tireless organizer, came under verbal attack from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I have seen her courage in person. I met her for the first time in 2003, while she was head of Alzahra University for women in Tehran. She was the only university head who, in the years following the 1979 Islamic revolution, was prepared to hold an event in my honor. But the day I was invited to present a lecture at her university, a number of women turned up claiming to be student members of the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary group aligned with the hard-line regime; and though it was obvious they were not students at all, they managed to prevent the event from taking place. But that did not stop Rahnavard from engaging with the intruders — civilly and calmly promising them equal time if they allowed me to go on — to no avail. I may not have spoken in public that day, but I privately celebrated her patience and fortitude.

Ebadi, an Iranian human-rights activist, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003

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