Neda Deserved the Nobel

Sunday, October 11, 2009
Last week, the Nobel Commission shamefully missed a historic opportunity to recognize the heroism of Iran's Green Movement.

This would have been particularly timely, as three opposition figures accused of leading that country's pro-democracy protests have just been sentenced to death by the Iranian dictatorship.

Here's an excerpt from, "President Obama has won the Nobel Prize for Peace -- that's not his fault," by David Kilgour in MWC, which stresses the point:

It's an odd Nobel Peace Prize that almost makes you embarrassed for the honoree. In blessing President Obama, the Nobel Committee intended to boost what it called his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." A more suitable time for the prize would have been after those efforts had borne some fruit.

The Nobel Committee's decision is especially puzzling given that a better alternative was readily apparent. This year, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people in Iran braved ferocious official violence to demand their right to vote and to speak freely. Dozens were killed, thousands imprisoned. One of those killed was a young woman named Neda Agha-Soltan; her shooting by thugs working for the Islamist theocracy, captured on video, moved the world.

A posthumous award for Neda, as the avatar of a democratic movement in Iran, would have recognized the sacrifices that movement has made and encouraged its struggle in a dark hour. Democracy in Iran would not only set a people free, it would also dramatically improve the chances for world peace, since the regime that murdered her is pursuing nuclear weapons in defiance of the international community.

Announcing Friday that he would accept the award, Mr. Obama graciously offered to share it with "the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets." But the mere fact that he avoided mentioning either Neda's name or her country, presumably out of consideration for the Iranian regime with which he is attempting to negotiate, showed the tension that sometimes exists between "diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" on the one hand, and advocacy of human rights on the other. The Nobel Committee could have spared Mr. Obama this dilemma if it had given Neda the award.