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Monthly Archive: August 2006
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August 17, 2006

Ganji's Assumptions
Guest Auhtor: Cyrus Ferdowsi

Robin Wright recalls in a Washington Post article that

A year ago, President Bush issued a statement saying [...] "[Ganji's] valiant efforts should not go in vain. [...] Mr. Ganji, please know that as you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."
In the same article, Ganji recalls
"I was in solitary confinement in prison and had no contact with anyone when Bush announced support for me." Interrogators, however, "talked to me as if I had had dinner with Bush the previous evening."
Wright adds that "Bush administration support is dangerous for Middle East democrats these days."

Wright, I guess, is doing what he is paid to do. Ganji, however, reveals here that the art of self-delusion is still alive in him. Is he suggesting that because the interrogators use Bush's support as evidence against Iranian liberals, Bush should stop supporting them? Can we not apply the same twisted logic for, say, the same liberals' belief in basic freedoms? These beliefs are used everyday as evidence by regime's interrogators and revolutionary courts that these people are "irreligious," "lackeys of the West," "traitors" and "symbols of corruption on Earth." These are actual charges brought against many who had merely dared to advocate freedoms of opinion in Iran, including Ganji himself. So, should we also stop believing and advocating our own freedoms because they are used as evidence against us?

It was only last year, when Ganji wrote in his Republican Manifesto

[The US] plan depends more on the behavior of the Iranian regime than it does on the conduct of the opposition forces. [..] [T]he only way out of a US-Iran face off is the establishment of a democratic system in Iran. [...]They believe a widespread democratic social movement can pre-empt an American military attack on Iran. With such a movement, a military attack will no longer be an issue. [...] Did Afghan Mujahedeen stop their fight and join the Taliban? Did Iraqi freedom fighters stop fighting Saddam and join his regime because America was going to attack Iraq? If they had done so, wouldn't they have been condemned by freedom lovers around the globe?

But now, he is doing exactly what he had advised against in his writings. He "scoffs at the $75 million that the Bush administration has allocated for programs to encourage Iran's democracy movement. He said the funds would be better used for Iranian- or Islamic-studies centers at American universities." But why? Why not spend that money in programs that promote international solidarity with the people of Iran in their struggle to attain their freedoms? What use are all those Iranian-studies programs if Iranians suffocate while being studied? By missing the chance to engage the world's superpower in a program of support for the Iranians' struggle for their freedoms, Ganji is now a good candidate to be condemned by freedom lovers around the world.

Interestingly, Ganji's own account shows his fallacy: even though he was in solitary confinement, the interrogators accused him anyway. This shows clearly that it is misguided to believe that Iranian liberals' actions, specifically their seeking help from the outside world, is what causes the regime to mistreat them. It is the ideas that they advocate, which go against the very existence of the tyrannical rule of the regime, not the real or imaginary support they receive from outside, that the regime fears and tries to eliminate. So, when the regime and its agents mistreat us anyway, why not encourage the free world, which can lend enormous resources to ourcause, to support our struggle for freedom?

Ganji had it right in prison! Only by encouraging the US officials to help the Iranian people can we avoid a bloody war before it becomes unavoidable by the conduct of the regime in Tehran. Ganji is wasting aunique opportunity, given to him for his acknowledged position in the eyes of the people of the world and their governments, and created byhis previous couragous and correct ideas and the efforts of those who spread those ideas by translating them, holding long vigils, signing petitions and making a noise for his and others' freedom, all around the world. Instead of spending time with Hollywood celebrities, he should meet with those who can actually make a differnece, through helpful laws that would bind any cooperation with the regime to its respect for human rights and its conduct towards its citizens. The effects of these lost opportunities can be already seen. Last year, Bush repeated the "we stand with you" language used earlier for Ganji in his 2006 State of the Union address. This is exactly what Iranian liberals need. Now instead, human rights are losing their place as an issue altogether in the language of veteran US politicians. This would be a fatal blow to the cause of freedom in Iran.

In his more philosophical thinkings, too, Ganji is slipping.

"I realized that repression is in the essence of revolution," he said, smiling. "And I realized that we cannot produce democracy with revolution."

He forgets that the longest standing democracy of the world was in fact created by a revoultion of the sort he thinks must be "repressive in essence." Not only that, it had to rid itself of slavery (the brazen face of repression) through a bloody civil war. Yet, the people of the US now enjoy the sort offreedoms Ganji is yearning for. The simple truth is, it is not revolutions per se that are repressive, but the ideas behind them. There is a link: repressive ideas seek their domination through revolutionary and violent methods, but the inverse (which Ganji states) is not true.

The truth is that Ganji is distancing himself from American officialsfor two reasons: one is that he fears, as he reveals in Wright'sarticle, harsher treatment for himself and his freinds by the regime.For not telling this straight out he is at least to blame fordishonesty. Second, and more importantly, he is against US policiesbecause he still carries with him, from his younger days, deep and untouched assumptions about the US, an ideological baggage against "US imperialism" and the sort, albeit in a lighter and modified version.

As a young man, he rallied behind Ayatollah Khomeini, served in the elite Revolutionary Guards at the same time as Iran's current hard-line president, then worked in the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, churning out its propaganda.
One is left wondering if those years had a permanent effect.

At this time it seems, unfortunately, that Ganji can only be trustedwhen he says, "We still don't have the emergence of a Gandhi, Havel or Mandela." Sadly, that is right. Gandhi, Havel, and Mandela never had a baggage of unattended assumptions, from their early days of supporting their later adversaries, affecting their thinking and actions years after they had nominally rejected them as false. Ganji, unfortunately, does.

Cyrus Ferdowsi was born and lived most of his life in Iran. As a child, he experienced the upheavals of the 1979 revolution and the horrors of the Iran-Iraq war. In school he felt the urge to resist the brainwashing of the religious state propaganda by reading alternative ideas, and by studying math. The latter has now turned into a profession. Cyrus's central issue has always been "freedom." The meaning of the word, however, had to be clarified by rational thinkers and rational thinking. He also writes at his personal weblog, Liberal Iranian.

August 13, 2006

You had their minds! Now you got their hearts too!
Arash Jalali  [info|posts]

Early August, the 4th internation reunion of the Sharif University alumni was held in Santa Clara in the US. According to the alumni association's website some 170 Sharif alumni from Iran, some along with their spouses and children, managed to obtain a visa and make arrangements to attend the gathering. On August 3, a dozen of them, arriving at different US airports, were told by the immigration officers that their visas have been revoked and that they will be deported back to Iran. Some of them, among them a lady with her children, were detained and questioned for long hours, and then transferred in chains and cuffs to prison, where they were "processed" like criminals, and spent the night with criminals, addicts, and prostitutes. The details of their ordeal is best described in their letters to the SUTA president, Dr. Hojabri.

We have had many posts on FToI describing the difficult process Iranian students have to go through to obtain a student or re-entry visa after attending a conference, and so on and so forth. My position has always been, as reflected in comments to a recent post, that one should not subject him/herself to a process where they think they will be insulted, demeaned, humiliated, or subjected to any unpleasant conditions. If one decides to proceed in spite of all that, then complaining about it would be, in my opionion, unjustified. However, this incident with Sharif alumni simply goes way beyond that.

It is understandable, and in fact maybe even justified from a "security" point of view, for the US government to deny visas to the citizens of a country the leaders of which call them the Big Satan, chant death to America, and where their flag is burned in the public as an annual ritual; allowing myself to forget for a moment that none of the people in this incident in fact belong to that group of islamist extremists. I would even go further to allow for a theoretical chance that given the current situation world-wide, with the conflict in the Middle East, it would be justified, with some major stretch of imagination, that there might be a reason to exercise the right to revoke their legally issued visas at the ports of entry, but I cannot in any way understand the mentality behind putting people through that horrible process of incarcertation, psychological torture and physical hardship. Having a relative who spent 3 years in Saddam Hussein's jails as a POW, I have heard horrible tales of torture and abuse, but I do not recall him ever saying that they were asked by the guards to pay them money for the food they were occasionally given. Americans certainly outdid themselves this time. They certainly took "the battle for the hearts and minds" to the next level.