The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Iranian human rights activist and lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, on Oct. 10, has significant internal and international implications for the development of political events in Iran. This prize is in effect an international recognition of the people’s struggle for democracy, freedom and an end to the ruling theocratic dictatorship. This award undoubtedly will encourage the popular movement fighting for democracy and democratic reforms while also struggling against any foreign intervention in Iran.

Shirin Ebadi, has a distinguished record of defending imprisoned political activists and persecuted militant students in Iran, which brought her into conflict with the ruling regime. She has been a consistent opponent of U.S. aggression against Iraq.

It is notable that Shirin Ebadi in her first interview after receiving the award has courageously demanded the release of all political prisoners in Iran. She has also expressed opposition towards foreign interference in her country.

While the regime’s reactionary rulers have furiously criticized the Nobel committee’s decision as an act of interference, all democratic and human rights activists inside and outside Iran have overwhelmingly greeted the award. However, the senior reformist figures in Khatami’s government have broadly confined their statements to personal messages and specifically avoided any comment on the effects of this development on the wider movement for reform in Iran. Khatami himself has cautiously welcomed the award but tried to reduce its significant by stating “the Nobel Peace Prize is not as important as the prizes for literature or scientific achievements.”

Shirin Ebadi’s Nobel award will further extend the movement for democracy in Iran beyond the boundaries and the failed actions of the Reformist leadership. And it will specifically affect the struggle of the women’s movement for equality and justice. For the majority of Iranians, this event is not about the first Nobel Prize awarded to a Moslem woman or simply the recognition of an individual’s achievement. It will be seen as a means to rally internal and external support for their struggle against the ruling dictatorship.

Internationally, the award has been greeted by a huge array of public figures and organisations, among them George Bush! However, the many statements issued by Bush’s administration about Iran never acknowledge the existence of a popular movement against the dictatorship. They deliberately ignore the progressive organizations and activists in Iran – amongst them well known political prisoners who are fighting for democracy and justice. The reasons are obvious. The Bush administration needs to portray itself as the only savior of Iran in order to justify its plans to impose a puppet pro-U.S. regime on the country, although the brand of “free-market democracy” on sale by President Bush has been rejected repeatedly by the people of Iran and those striving for change in the country.

The obvious message from this award is that the popular movement for democracy has widespread popular support in Iran. And that outside interventions under any pretext will certainly hinder efforts towards peace and democracy and would be rejected by people and their progressive political forces.

Nima Kamran is a correspondent from the Tudeh Party of Iran and can be reached at