''The Arab Spring began in Iran, but it was repressed with violence,'' Ebadi said. ''In 2009 many citizens were murdered, and many more incarcerated. Because of this violence, the street protests were interrupted. But the situation in Iran remains like a volcano, likely to explode at any moment.'' The Iranian lawyer and human rights activist went on to express hope that the Arab Spring might have a positive effect on her own country as well. ''If the uprisings in North Africa were to have positive outcomes resulting in democracy, this would reflect positively on Iran,'' Ebadi said. ''But what is happening right now in Syria is a civil war, and this could slow down the democratization process.'' Ebadi called on the new leaderships of Egypt and Tunisia to not repeat Iran's errors, but to keep state and religion separate, following the Turkish model. ''It is natural for Muslims to prefer political Islam,'' Ebadi said. ''But electing Islamic parties does not necessarily mean that the religion and the state are one and the same. We must separate between the two, as in Turkey.'' The new political elites, Ebadi said, would do well to observe the Iranian example. ''If they are intelligent, they will compare Iran and Turkey. In 1997, the economic condition of Iran was better and more evolved than Turkey's, but now the roles are reversed. I hope the North African revolutionaries will avoid Iran's mistake.'' In Egypt, the vice presidential nominations of a Coptic Christian and a woman indicate that the country will follow the Turkish model, Ebadi said. She went on to criticize the West, which is ''more focused on its own economic interests than on human rights in Arab countries. I am against military intervention because usually it slows down the democratization process. Instead of intervening militarily, the West should have prevented the various dictators from hoarding their wealth in foreign banks. Europe could have preemptively prevented them from slaughtering their own people,'' Ebadi said.
Asked about the détente between Egypt and Iran, Ebadi said Cairo will never substitute Damascus as the prime ally of the mullahs.
''It is normal for the two countries to have friendly relations.
But Syria is a red line for the Iranian regime, which will defend Assad tooth and nail,'' Ebadi said. ''The Syrian President is a puppet in Iranian hands, and Egypt cannot substitute Syria.'' (ANSAMed).