Iran's Nobel laureate Ebadi 'surprised' at silence on Dalai Lama visa row

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi (centre) speaks during a press conference to mark 25 years since the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel prize at the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala on Oct 1, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi (centre) speaks during a press conference to mark 25 years since the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel prize at the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala on Oct 1, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

DHARAMSALA, India (AFP) - Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, who will boycott a summit in South Africa over its refusal to grant the Dalai Lama a visa, said Wednesday she was surprised Desmond Tutu had not spoken out about his country's move.

Ms Ebadi is among a number of Nobel peace laureates who have vowed to boycott the Cape Town peace summit on October 13-15, because the Tibetan spiritual leader was unable to attend.

"There is a history of fighting racial discrimination in South Africa and that is why we don't accept this country's refusal to give a visa to the Dalai Lama three times," Ms Ebadi said in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama is based.

"I am very surprised that Desmond Tutu has kept his silence at this time. I'm surprised he is not speaking openly like the rest of us," she said at a press conference to mark 25 years since the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel prize.

Tutu won the Nobel peace prize in 1984.

China regularly pressures foreign governments to curb their interactions with the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising. It accuses the 79-year-old of being a separatist, while he says he merely wants more autonomy for Tibet.

Ms Ebadi, an Iranian human rights lawyer who won the Nobel in 2003 for pressing for democracy and human rights in her country, also urged the world - including Chinese people themselves - to speak out about abuses in China.

"Is it correct not to protest and to take up silence for a government that puts poets in prison?" she asked.

She cited the case of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese writer and Nobel peace laureate jailed for inciting subversion in 2009.

Mr Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel while in prison for his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China".