Saturday, October 11, 2003
Area women celebrate Nobel winner
By ANNE GEGGIS | News-Journal Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH — God must have been on the side of the female Iranian activist awarded a Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for her to survive the fundamentalist revolution of the late 1970s as a champion of freedom, said one local Iranian-born woman.
Afsar Aslani-Far of Ormond Beach, who left Iran in 1975, was among the unanimous chorus of expatriate Iranians celebrating Friday’s dramatic award.
Whether they had heard of her before Friday or not, having Shirin Ebadi take a place alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa inspired a burst of national pride.
“I heard a lot about what happened to women who were involved in politics — a lot of them were imprisoned,” said Aslani-Far, who is an officer in the Iranian Heritage Unity in Diversity Foundation. “God was behind her in that they didn’t kill her.”
Forough Hosseini, president of the Iranian-American Society, was thrilled that the first Iranian to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize also is one of only 11 women to win the honor.
“She’s always been the perfect role model for not only Iranian women but for women around the world,” Hosseini said, ticking off Ebadi’s various accomplishments as judge, lecturer, activist and writer. “It’s amazing to me that someone like her never feared for her life. She’s always spoke out about what she thought was right ... She never let anyone intimidate her.”
Another Iranian-born woman, however, said that Friday’s award didn’t come as a surprise at all to her.
Despite the images that came out of the 1979 revolution — women veiled and fundamentalist clerics in charge — Iran has a flowering culture in which women are allowed to decide whether they want to pursue a career or not, said Maryam Ghyabi of Ormond Beach.
Ghyabi, who runs an engineering firm with two offices, one in DeLand and the other in Jacksonville, came to this country when she was 17 years old — the year before the 1979 revolution.
“Many, many people in Iran are smart and courageous people,” Ghyabi said. “... There are plenty of females in Iran who are very smart and educated. Doctors, engineers, writers, phenomenal artists. It’s a very old culture.
“When I heard this (news) this morning, I was not surprised. I was proud.”
HICI Special Report — Women Around the World: Rights and Wrongs