LONDON: The Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has blamed military spending in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon for undermining the state budget and spreading poverty in the country.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper about the wave of anti-government protests, the human rights lawyer said Iran’s authorities continue to neglect the Iranian people despite the fact that they have declared their demands.
Ebadi said the majority of Iranians are demanding change because they are now aware that the current political structure, centerred around Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is incapable of reform.
Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work in Iran but has lived in exile in London since 2009, urged Iranians to continue protesting.
She called on people to stop paying water, gas and electricity bills and taxes, and to withdraw their money from state-owned banks.
The protests started on December 28, driven by economic grievances and spread to cities across the country. Twenty-one people have been killed in the violent response from Iran’s security forces.
Ebadi said that people took to the streets peacefully but were confronted by the police and security forces.
“The government says up to 700 were arrested but I am certain that the number of detainees and casualties is much more than that,” she added.
Ebadi said Iran’s police and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps should drop their weapons and join protesters.