Pro Bono Legal Services Essay

Words: 2325
Pages: 10

Court Rooms as Battlegrounds: Pro Bono Legal Services as an Effective Form of Resistance Shirin Ebadi’s Iran Awakening explored contemporary political, religious and cultural issues in Iran during and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. A significant era in Iranian history, the 1979 revolution resulted in the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was supported by the United States and its eventual replacement with an Islamic Republic under the Ayatollah Khomeini with the support of leftist Islamic organizations. The argument of this paper would focus on how Shirin Ebadi’s pro bono legal service was the strongest and most effective form of resistance in a nation with widespread oppression and infringed rights under the Islamic Republic. Offering her pro bono legal services to victims of the Islamic Republic gave efforts in restoring justice in the legal system. It also targeted human rights issues therefore capturing international attention. Lastly, it gave the opportunity to incorporate victims, who suffer the most injustices and who were mostly not financially secure, to strengthen the intensity of the resistance through providing multiple cases of injustices as evidences that would eventually lead to question the regime’s legitimacy. Shirin Ebadi used her expertise and profession to advocate for others, even in the face of death. She utilized her passion and knowledge of the legal system in the best way possible, and that is to expose the atrocities of the Islamic Republic through legal battles. Liberated from Western influences and a semi-absolute monarchy, the Islamic Republic changed the laws and systems in place overnight and from this revolution emerged an anti-Western authoritarian regime that would revive the classical Islamic Shari’a law. Shirin Ebadi witnessed the drastic changes and how, in a short period of time, eliminated the basic human rights and liberties within Iranian society. Iran Awakening described the repressive actions of the Islamic Republic, such as violence and excessive use of coercion, and the widespread resistance from the populous. These resistances came in many forms, from public protests, mass demonstrations, and hunger strikes to guerilla movements. As an example, the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Oragnization (MKO), a terrorist organization that emerged in the sixties that highly advocated in overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran.1 Their form of resistance was highly militant and focused on violence and armed struggle to defy Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime. Assassination of public officials and bombing of government buildings in Tehran were regular actions for the MKO.2 In Shirin Ebadi’s Iran Awakening, the theme of resistance was emphasized for it was Ebadi’s way of expressing the extensive oppression inflicted by Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Republic upon the Iranian society.
Further complication occurs when the law of the land limits people or, in some cases, specific groups of people, in participating in the public sphere. Under the Islamic Republic, women have been placed in a state of total subservience. Women were highly objectified upon the imposition of wearing the hijab and eventually decreasing the value of their lives to half of men’s.3 Such conditions had taken away Shirin Ebadi’s judgeship and her significance in Iranian society. In Iran Awakening, Shirin Ebadi described her own struggle upon the revival of the Shari’a law that removed women’s basic rights and freedom. This cruel situation triggered the author to take action. In particular, Shirin Ebadi gave up her law career that earned her money and decided to take on pro bono cases.
Shirin Ebadi’s resistance against the Islamic Republic took the form of offering pro bono legal services. Her battles occurred in court rooms rather than public places. Pro bono legal services are free legal services offered by lawyers to clients. Specifically, her legal practice focused on defending