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November 10, 2005

The Diaspora doesn't care about Akbar Ganji
Guest Author: Nema Milaninia
ganji-wave.jpg

Courtesy of SATYAR.

On April 22, 2000, Akbar Ganji, the prominent Iranian journalist and writer, was imprisoned after publishing a series of articles condemning high-level officials in Iran for their participation in the murder of intellectuals during the 1990s. Almost six years later, Ganji's health is deteriorating and his life on the brink of death after repeatedly being denied either medical leave or care by Iranian officials.

In protest, Ganji began an indefinite hunger strike in June to protest his treatment and inspire Iranian intellectuals and the elite to curb their passivity and advocate the freedom of Iran's true political figures, its writers and journalists. For a while, Ganji was able to garner international attention, which forced the Iranian government to grant Ganji's wish and allow him access to a hospital. Shortly thereafter, Ganji was not only tortured and ill-treated by Iranian security officers in Milad hospital in Tehran, but immediately returned to prison.

It has been four months since Ganji stopped his hunger strike. In those four months, there have been numerous reports indicating that Ganji is continuously being tortured. Nevertheless, the world's elite and intellectuals continue to remain passive on his release and the release of other political prisoners. In fact, America's major newspapers contain little to nothing about Ganji's plight, but play day-to-day predictions on Iran's nuclear activities.

Like Ganji, hundreds of writers and journalists have been detained in Iran's prisons for their political writings. The government accuses them of "publishing false statements against the regime" and "attacking national security.” These are charges against any of those who publish writings that account for the government's horrific record on human rights and suppression of civil and political freedoms.

In light of the struggles and problems faced by political prisoners inside Iran, what has the Iranian Diaspora done? In September, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the United Nations, whose pictures did our Diaspora waive in front of television stations and millions of television viewers? Did they display the pictures of prisoners inside Iran, dying in jail like Mr. Ganji? Did they express messages condemning torture? Did they show sympathy toward the plight of Iranians in Iran when the media finally paid attention to their words? Sadly no. A historic moment was lost to historical egoism that is still fixated on the personalities of Iranians living lavish lives in foreign countries.

Akbar Ganji, not Reza Pahlavi or Maryam Rajavi, symbolizes the struggle for human rights and democracy in Iran. His Republican Manifesto has become the hallmark for democratic change in Iran. In an Iran where no one man or woman has risen to lead toward greater liberties and democratization, Ganji has eloquently called for social, rather than personal, heroism. In his own words, "a democratic people build democracies" and that only through non-cooperation and deligitimization of the ruling government can the foundation for democratic institutions take place in Iran. Ganji demonstrates that being a political dissident does not mean renouncing the Islamic faith, but renouncing interpretive conformity.

President Bush's previous support for Ganji's freedom should be welcomed and more should be asked for. It shows a step in support of Iran's political dissidents rather than America's political hawks. However, until greater opposition is voiced by the world's leaders about human rights in Iran, more and more journalists and writers will be subject to arbitrary detainment, torture, and abuse.

Cooperation with the Iranian government and rapprochement should not be conditioned on Iran's nuclear and terrorism record. It should begin once the Iranian government begins taking sincere steps to promote and protect human rights for all its citizens. Like South Africa's detainment of political prisoners during apartheid, the Iranian government should similarly feel the brunt of global cooperation in universalizing the respect for human rights. When the global community begins taking these steps, Iran would evolve to the level where people like Akbar Ganji will be its leaders rather than its martyrs.

Nema Milaninia is the executive director of the International Studies Journal and editor of the Iranian Truth group blog.
Comments
Shahram at November 21, 2005 04:27 PM [permalink]:

I am not surprised that no one has so far made any comment for this post on Freethoughts.org, nor am I disappointed.

It partly, and perhaps rather simply, proves the core argument offered by Nema, i.e. apathy.

The other part of it comes from FToI's decline due to migration problems ever since last year and other technical issue.....,

And last but not least, the decline of the reformist movement in Iran in whose basket some of the most frequent participants of FToI had placed all of their eggs.....

Thank you and Bravo AIS....(!)

Shahram at November 21, 2005 04:28 PM [permalink]:

I am not surprised that no one has so far made any comment for this post on Freethoughts.org, nor am I disappointed.

It partly, and perhaps rather simply, proves the core argument offered by Nema, i.e. apathy.

The other part of it comes from FToI's decline due to migration problems ever since last year and other technical issues.....,

And last but not least, the decline of the reformist movement in Iran in whose basket some of the most frequent participants of FToI had placed all of their eggs.....

Thank you and Bravo AIS....(!)

Winston at November 24, 2005 04:52 AM [permalink]:

it makes me terribly sick when people dare to compare a terrorist like Rajavi with an intelligent man like crown prince Pahlavi!

Akbar Ganji is a great person but the writer just lost his credit by writing such a nonesense!

sorry guys... this article is just pathetic!

An Iranian Student (AIS) at November 24, 2005 06:32 PM [permalink]:

Dear Shahram,

What was that all about? :)
If you meant that some of the pro-reform have shut up because of teh discussions here with me being one of the participants-I am very flattered- but honestly I am convinced by the discussion here and elsewhere in the blogosphere before the elections that those pro-reform retards will not be convinced by any kind of rational discourse. If -God forbid- another chance comes up with another prostitute-clown like Khatami and co. you'll see them again jumping up and down and cheering with energy once more. They are hopeless.
It's on the "ordinary" people (nonsense terminology anyway) of the street who tackle with REAL problems daily and so are both mature and realistic and rational that we should place our hopes.
Forget the idiots.
Thanks anyway.

Winston,
I agree with you about Reza Pahlavi. Please refer to what I said to Shahram.

Nema at November 25, 2005 02:08 PM [permalink]:

Winston,

You might find it sick, but I think the rhetoric you use reflects a significant problem. First of all, the parallels with Pahlavi and Rajavi have nothing to do with the intellectual capacities. Rather, its strictly concerning the emphasis people, like yourself, place on figures who are not living in Iran, and haven't done so since the Revolution, live comfortable lives in foreign countries, have no significant backing inside Iran, whereas individuals who are being jailed, tortured, and killed for being in Iran and promoting its liberty and freedoms are completely neglected.

This isn't about being pro-reform, or pro-monarchy, or whatever. Its about supporting freedom for political prisoners like Akbar Ganji. Its such a shameful waste of effort to waive the picture of a man living a lavish life in America, when the person being tortured in Iran is being left unheard, and unrepresented. I think in many ways, the emphasis placed by the Diaspora on figures like Pahlavi and Rajavi has only empowered the Iranian government. The more we here (outside of Iran) care about people who have no support in Iran, nor are ever going to make a change there, the less attention is placed on Iran's true heros and movement-makers, its imprisoned political dissidents.

AIS says it correctly: "It's on the "ordinary" people (nonsense terminology anyway) of the street who tackle with REAL problems daily and so are both mature and realistic and rational that we should place our hopes."

An Iranian Student (AIS) at November 26, 2005 12:25 AM [permalink]:

Touche. Nima.
You have a good point there. I accept it.