In a rare show of solidarity and unanimity, WSIS civil society groups have strongly recommended that Ms. Shirin Ebadi, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2003, speak on behalf of civil society at the opening ceremony of the WSIS in November.
Ms. Shirin Ebadi is a staunch human rights defender in her country, its first female judge, and a devout muslim. The selection of Ms. Ebadi to speak, if accepted, will certainly be a strong signal to governments of our commitment to the basic principles of freedom of expression and civil liberties everywhere. And the fact that she is a woman from the Arab world, who no doubt will deliver her speech in Arabic, will be in itself a powerful statement to the Tunisian authorities.
I had the honor of transmitting to the WSIS Executive Secretariat the recommendation on behalf of the speaker selection committee of Ms. Ebadi to speak at the opening ceremony. This is somewhat of a formality, since the call had already come from the Human Rights Caucus, with the endorsement of several caucuses and 30-some organizations. Nevertheless, I am proud to support the nomination.
The ball is now in the hands of Mr. Utsumi, head of the WSIS secretariat, and Tunisian president Ben Ali, the formal president of the WSIS summit. Hopefully they will see that they will gain more by letting Ms. Ebadi speak than by preventing her.