Quick, how many winners of the Nobel Peace Prize can you name? Probably a few of your own countrymen? Barack Obama, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter? Anyone else? Well going back a bit further, to 1993, probably Nelson Mandela (and Fredrik Willem De Klerk), and going way back to 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. You’d probably like to forget that Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger were among the prize winners.
Maybe you have a couple of favorites. I do. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, who probably more than anyone else of the past century substantially changed the world for the better (and made peace more likely?) by his own actions, Lech Walesa of Solidarity fame, Norman Borlaug, who almost single handedly by his own personal contributions to the Green Revolution (those new agricultural techniques that prevented otherwise expected global famines) ended the fear that rising world population numbers would condemn millions to death by starvation.
But if you were to look for whatever it was that characterized the Peace Prize, whatever it was that the winners had in common, you’d look in vain. For there is probably very little, other than the prize itself, that they share.
You’d probably like to see as I, in a listing of the Peace Price winners, a long series of Martin Luther Kings, Nelson Mandelas, and Aung San Suu Kyis, all those who were by their own words and actions following the example of Gandhi and struggling against oppression in their own lands, utilizing like Gandhi before them, the power of their own non-violent, strong, and courageous stands.
But such people as these are, of course, the exceptions. Unlike the Peace Prize they don’t appear every year. Hence the large number of winners whose awards are immediately questioned by the world’s press. The Norwegian Prize givers ought to have given far fewer prizes, and made it clearer from the beginning what the award was meant to honor.
All this to say that I think we have right now a valid recipient for the award, one in the tradition of Gandhi that I mention above. The Norwegian prize givers would have done much better, made the prize much more influential and prestigious, more like the other Nobels, if they had stated from the beginning that their prize would be awarded to an individual whose actions were most clearly in the Gandhi, and later King and Mandela, tradition. But, of course, they didn’t do this.
My proposed Peace Prize recipient is Mehdi Karroubi, a 72 year old Iranian cleric, who at the present moment, almost by himself, is speaking truth to arbitrary power, much as King and Gandhi, risking his own life while resisting, by his fearless public utterances, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and the other illegitimate ruler/thugs of today’s Iran.
To read a full account of Mehdi Karroubi go to Michael Slackman’s article in the NYTimes, A Lone Cleric is Loudly Defying Iran’s Leaders.
In Karroubi’s own words in a letter he wrote to the Iranian natrion:
“If only I were not alive and had not seen the day when in the Islamic republic a citizen would come to me and complain that every variety of appalling and unnatural act would be done in unknown buildings and by less-known people, stripping people and making them face each other and subjecting them to vile insults and urinating in their faces…. I say to myself, ‘Where indeed have we arrived 30 years after the revolution?’ ”