Shirin Ebadi to be re-invited, October 29, 2008

PETALING JAYA, 29 Oct 2008: Organisers of a peace forum are waiting for the Foreign Ministry's approval before re-inviting Nobel laureate and Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi to Malaysia.

Universiti Malaya (UM) deputy vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Amin Jalaludin said the university was reissuing the invitation via the International Peace Foundation, which is behind the Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace programme.

Foundation chairperson Uwe Morawetz told The Nut Graph that the Foreign Ministry had yet to officially reverse its position on barring Ebadi from speaking in Malaysia.

"We will only contact Dr Ebadi again in this regard when we can be assured that she is welcomed to speak in Malaysia," said Morawetz in an e-mail.

"If this is assured, it is up to Dr Ebadi if she will accept another invitation to speak in Malaysia given recent developments," he added.

The Bridges programme here and in Thailand will run from November 2008 to April 2009. UM, one of the local organisers, had initially scheduled Ebadi to deliver a keynote speech on 3 Nov.

Morawetz said that even if Ebadi reconsiders, she would not be able to make it in November.

On 24 Oct 2008, The Star quoted Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim as promising to retract the ministry's advice to bar Ebadi from speaking.

Rais described the advice by the ministry's Middle East and North Africa division secretary to UM as "not official" and "unfortunate". Rais was responding to UM vice-chancellor Datuk Rafiah Salim, who had said the university withdrew its invitation to Ebadi upon the ministry's advice.

In its 10 Sept letter to UM, the ministry said inviting Ebadi to Malaysia would jeapordise bilateral relations with Iran.

The ministry said the Nobel laureate was considered a critic of Iran who promoted a "Western agenda".

Ebadi's office claims that the Iranian government also played a role in pressuring the Malaysian authorities to bar her official visit to Malaysia.

Ebadi is the first Muslim woman to have won the Nobel Prize for Peace. She has been under constant threat by the Iranian government and media for her human rights work.