By Regina Yorkgitis
Negin Nebavi, a professor of history at Montclair State University, presented “Theocracy and Dissent in Contemporary Iran,” a lecture describing the persistent efforts of human rights activists in the Iran, on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
“The fact is that as a result of the 2009 election, many people are still in jail,” Nebavi said. A scholar of Middle Eastern studies, Nebavi detailed the enduring hope that Iranian activists have maintained in recent history.
After the controversial re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, human rights activists protested the results. As freedom of speech and press are not rights guaranteed for Iranian citizens, many lobbyists were incarcerated for their actions.
“On the surface, the regime’s crackdown seemed to have worked,” Nebavi said. However, imprisoned activists have sustained “a confidence that things cannot carry on in this way,” she explained, and they are “persisting in their demand for justice.”
As an example, Nebavi read a letter sent from prison by Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer and activist, to her husband.
Sotoudeh’s letter, written in May 2011, reads, “Although my freedom is also important to me, it is not more important than the justice that has been ignored and denied.”
While human rights activists, like Sotoudeh, risk imprisonment and oppression for working to create social justice, Nebavi asserted they have not been silenced in their “attempt to try to bring about peaceful change from within.”
Reactions to Nebavi’s presentation were varied among students.
“It was nice to hear direct letters,” said Britta Nippert, junior journalism major, who said she enjoyed the presentation.
“I think (Nebavi) put too much faith in the people who support human rights,” said Michael Tobass, freshman political science major. He believed that the “system of theocracy” was to blame for the issues in Iran.
However, when asked whether Iran as a theocracy hinders efforts towards social justice, Nebavi said,“Islam emphasizes also human dignity — there is no contradiction.”
Nebavi was the second speaker in the “Social Justice and the Politics of Dissent in the Muslim World Lecture Series,” that is scheduled to continue next semester.