PARIS 10 June (IPS) "In Iran, real power is not in the hands of the president, but in those of the religious guide, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i. Therefore it is all the system of the Islamic Republic that must be changed”, veteran Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji stated in an interview with the centrist French daily Le Figaro.
The interview with Ms. Daphne Minoui the paper’s correspondent in Iran was carried one day after the Iranian Judiciary launched a warrant against him, on grounds that the prisoner did not show up at prison at the end of a week-long permission to leave the prison for medical care.
The whereabouts of the outspoken activist is not known and friends fears he might be arrested an taken to undisclosed jail.
The whereabouts of the outspoken activist is not known. His wife, Mrs Ma’soumeh Shafi’i says she is afraid that her husband had again been arrested and taken to an undisclosed prison.
Mohsen Kadivar, another dissident, confirmed, adding that agents from the Judiciary turned up at Mr. Ganji’s house, surrounded by friends and students.
As for Mr. Masha’allah Shamsolva’ezin, the spokesman for the Association of Defence of Iranian Journalists, he says that “Ganji is not a man to hide from justice. We are seriously concerned about his situation”.
During his short leave, Mr. Ganji, an investigative journalist and political analyst, met Dr, Mostafa Mo’in, the reformists lead candidate as well as many other dissidents and gave interviews to several Iranian media outside Iran.
Arrested on April 2000 on his return to Tehran after having taken part, with 17 other Iranian pro-reform journalists, lawyers, intellectuals, scholars, poets and even one cleric in a Conference organised in Berlin by the Heinrich Boell Institute, Mr. Ganji was sentenced to ten years imprisonment on charges propaganda against the Islamic Republic, endangering the State’s security and offending the leader.
But Mr. Ganji badly angered the authorities after, in several books and articles, he exposed the role played by former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his then Intelligence Minister, Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian in the murder, late November 1999 of several influential and popular politicians and intellectuals.
When granted prison leave, the authorities did not specified exactly how much time Mr. Ganji can stay out of jail and a spokesman for the Judiciary had said that on recommendation from doctors, his permission could be extended, a statement contradicted by Tehran Prosecutor.
Days before coming out of prison, Mr. Ganji published the second part of his famous “Manifesto for Republicanism”, in which he openly called for radical regime change in Iran, called on the population to boycott the forthcoming elections and push for a national referendum instead.
Observers said the Manifesto can cost his author life prison.
"The elections should be boycotted, because they are antidemocratic", Mr. Ganji told Le Figaro without reserve.
Bellow come excerpts from the interview, published on 10 June 2005.
His hours of freedom are counted. But between two stays in prison, Akbar Ganji never looks at its watch. On the contrary, he takes time to sprinkle its guests of tea, biscuits and fresh fruits before launching out, without reserve, in a diatribe against the regime.
In Iran, the presidential elections are held every four years by the direct popular vote. "But it is a setting in theatrical scene, because actually, the president plays only figurative role", continues the Iranian dissident, sited in the settee of its modest apartment in Tehran that he rediscovers after five years of absence. The drawn feature, the face thinned down by his recent hunger strike, Akbar Gandji, 45 years, does not chew its words.
"As long as the candidates will be pre-selected by the Council of the Guardians – an elections watchdog controlled by the conservatives -, as long as women and religious minorities will not have the right to be presented, as long as the political opponents will be eliminated from electoral process, the poll will remain distorted", he says.
His voice whistles because of the asthma which he got in dungeon. Time to take again his breathing and he adds: "In Iran, real power is not in the hands of the president, but in those of the religious guide, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i". Therefore, he adds, it is all the system of the Islamic Republic - founded in 1979 after the arrival of the mullahs to power – that must be changed.
“Ayatollah Khameneh’i was appointed for life. That makes sixteen years that he is directing the country. It is already too much. It is necessary to reform the Constitution and to separate the politics from religion", he insists. It is in fact the corner stone of the system, the famous principle of the "velayat-e- faqih", which preaches the supremacy of the religious guide that Ganji dares to attack directly. Written black on white in his “Manifesto for Republicanism”, a scathing political attack of ten pages widely published on Internet and distributed under the coat in Teheran, his remarks could cost him the capital punishment or at best a life imprisonment. "I am ready to pay the price", he says.
In 1997, the Iranian dissident had purged several months of prison after having held a speech against Fascism at the University of the southern city of Shiraz. His conditions of detention at the large prison of Evin were regularly denounced, in vain, by the international organizations of human right.
"The elections should be boycotted, because they are antidemocratic".
Forbidden to telephone to his family and deprived of real medical follow-up, Ganji decided to start a hunger strike on 19 May aimed at forcing the authorities to give him permission to get out of prison to attend medical treatment. At the end of last month, the Iranian authorities finally granted a week of bail to him to be able to consult specialists. Last Monday, the seven days had been passed, but Ganji did not show up at the prison. The Justice says he is hiding. But his wife, contacted by telephone, does not have either any news of him. She fears that he is again detained and held in a secret place...
A few days earlier, in his small apartment, Ganji assured to us that he is ready to defy the justice by giving himself a one month freedom instead of one week, "a time essential to receive care". A form of resistance that joins his famous principle of "civil disobedience", a concept for which he it always fought. In his opinion, "the Iranians are tired of the regime, but they do not want a second revolution. They are against violence. Under these conditions, I recommend peaceful resistance: strikes, sit-in and committed speech". The events in Ukraine, he says have greatly inspired him, just like reading the works of Hannah Arendt and Karl Popper.
As for the reformist candidates, he says, "instead of guaranteeing the regime by going to the elections, they should be more disobeying by withdrawing from the race". Because, he hammers, "democratization is impossible within the framework of the current regime!" The reforms, he nevertheless believed in them when he signed papers in the liberal newspaper “Sohb E Emrouz” (This Morning) at the end of the Nineties. Twice he voted for Khatami, in 1997 and 2001. But, he says, "the reforms are in the dead end". ENDS IRAN ELECTIONS GANI 10605