Iranian Nobel Prize winner tells sensational story of her husband’s betrayal

Iranian lawyer and Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi poses for photographers at Tehran's Ershad mosque (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Shirin Ebadi lives in exile now, but decades ago, before the 1979 revolution, she became the first woman judge in Iran — a lofty position she was ultimately stripped of by clerics following the revolution. In 2003, Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as a human rights attorney during the intervening years, but in 2009, she fled the country. She now resides in London, and her current situation sprang from the fallout of an unbelievable story of infidelity she’s sharing in a forthcoming memoir, Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran. An excerpt from the book appeared in The New York Times this week and the yarn she spins about her husband’s betrayal, brimming with intrigue, seems as though it could have been taken straight from the plot line of an episode of Homeland. However, for Ebadi what transpired was all-too-real and caused pain that reached impossible depths.

In August of 2009, Ebadi left her home in Tehran along with her youngest daughter and traveled to the U.S. to visit her older daughter, who was living in Atlanta at the time. Her husband, Javad, stayed behind in Tehran. “I was not a suspicious wife,” Ebadi writes. “He had never raised questions about my male colleagues, and I’d accorded him the same understanding” throughout their 34-year marriage. “It had seemed to work for us, this mutual respect. Until now.” While in the U.S., Ebadi called back to Tehran to speak with Javad. She wasn’t alarmed when she was unable to reach him after a couple of days, but as the days turned into weeks and she received no word from him, she grew concerned.

Finally, Javad called. In a shaky voice, he said, “Shirin, I don’t know if you can forgive me.” Over the phone, Ebadi thought her husband might be crying. “Will you forgive me?” he pressed her. “Javad, tell me first what’s happened!” a mystified Ebadi replied.

Javad then began recounting to Ebadi an excruciating story. Feeling “very lonely and empty” one evening, he had accepted an invitation to visit the apartment of a female friend. While he was there, a mutual friend — also a woman — “very unexpectedly” dropped by. Javad, long before, had been romantically involved with the woman, Mehri, who serendipitously stopped by that evening. The woman who was hosting made it abundantly clear to Javad and Mehri that she thought the two should rekindle their old romance, and that there was no better time than right then, while Javad’s wife was out of the country. According to Javad, Ebadi writes, the host continued refilling their drinks and fanning the flames. Suddenly, she made herself scarce and Javad found himself alone with Mehri.

Speechless, Ebadi implored him to continue.

“She kept touching me … and I … I succumbed,” Javad confessed. He told his wife that the two then retired to the bedroom, but the twist that occurred next was so unimaginable, so perilous, and caused such intense fear and loathing that Ebadi at first hid what was happening from her daughters — until she could hide it no more.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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