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Shirin Ebadi

Written by: Dawn Gifford Engle |   Directed by: Dawn Gifford Engle |  Genre: Documentary
Reviewed by Rick Murrin.

At one point in “Until we are free,” Shirin Ebadi recounts her courtship with her husband, Javad. She says with pride, “I chose my own husband.” It’s hard to believe that there are still arranged marriages in the world, and it’s even harder to believe that women are still fighting for basic human rights in many countries. Shirin Ebadi is a warrior for human rights, and this film covers most of her outstanding achievements, but you would need a series to “really” portray her life’s work. In the mid-1970s, she was the first woman to become a judge in Iran, and in 2003 she was the first Iranian woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She used her prize money to open her law practice and invested the rest. The dividends from those investments were used for those in need. There are pivotal moments in this film that shape her life story.

In 1980 when Ayatollah Khomeini took power, all female judges were demoted to administration jobs. She never stopped practicing law. One of her biggest cases was that of an 8-year-old girl who was beaten to death by her father. A father who was given custody of the child and was a violent offender. This is just the beginning of many human rights cases that she fought for. Death threats against her family were constant. She was also imprisoned, as were many female lawyers from Iran. Yet there was hope during the Arab Spring that the people finally had a voice, only to have it ripped away with a rigged election. Eventually, she left Iran for good after finding evidence that she was on a hit list and everything she owned was seized – everything, even her Nobel prize. Both her daughters attended school at McGill in Montreal. Her husband was not so lucky. His passport was revoked, and he was set up and accused of several crimes that warranted a death sentence unless he denounced his wife’s work, which he did. The harassment never ceased, and it broke him. He also developed dementia and lived with his sister.

As of 2020, the laws in Iran have not changed. Iranian women believe that they will change the laws and gain their rights. Shirin Ebadi toured the world, speaking out against Iran’s human rights violations. The government offered to give all her property back if she stopped talking. Her response was, “Never.” This documentary is so powerful that I simply can’t stop thinking about it. I imagine that is the point, to keep it in my mind. Dawn Gifford Engle is a fabulous filmmaker, and this movie is ready-made for public viewing. I hope that everyone gets the chance to see this film because it is not only a great one but also an important one. I’m giving it 4.5 stars. Thank you for reading.

Shirin Ebadi: Until We Are Free from PeaceJam on Vimeo.

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