Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi is suing the U.S. treasury department.

"Despite federal laws that say that American trade embargoes may not restrict the free flow of information," she writes in the New York Times, "the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control continues to regulate the import of books from Iran, Cuba and other countries. In order to skirt the laws protecting the flow of information, the government prohibits publishing 'materials not fully created and in existence.' Therefore, I could publish my memoir in the United States, but it would be illegal for an American literary agent, publisher, editor or translator to help me."

Ebadi, a law professor at the University of Tehran, would like to correct Western stereotypes of Islam.

"If even people like me - those who advocate peace and dialogue - are denied the right to publish their books in the United States with the assistance of Americans, then people will seriously question the view of the United States as a country that advocates democracy and freedom everywhere. What is the difference between the censorship in Iran and this censorship in the United States? Is it not better to encourage a dialogue between Iranians and the American public?

"This is why I filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department on Oct. 26, joining one filed in September by several American organizations representing publishers, editors and translators. We seek to overturn the regulations on what Americans can and cannot read in the United States.

"Human rights, including the freedom to read whatever one wishes, are universal values that transcend national boundaries. Therefore, just as I take on court cases in Tehran to defend others' rights, so must I follow my conscience and take on a lawsuit in the United States to defend my own rights and the rights of Americans."

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