New York, 16 Jul. (IPS) Iran’s leading dissident Akbar Ganji continued his symbolic hunger strike in front of the United Nations head quarters in New York on Sunday, with a strong pledge to replace the present Iranian “authoritarian” theocracy with a “democratic and free regime”.
Mr. Ganji, 47, flew in from London on Saturday. A slight figure, he greeted admirers with kisses on the cheek at a small rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across the street from the United Nations.
“Without freedom, without democracy and without human rights, there is always the danger of a war.
Thousands of Iranians inside and outside the country responded positively to his call for word wide hunger strike, aimed at securing the release of political prisoners in Iran, particularly Mr. Ramin Jahanbaglou, Ali Akbar Mousavi Kho’eini and Mansor Osanlou.
Mr. Jahanbaglou, a scholar and philosopher of international caliber was arrested a month ago at the Tehran international airport, coming from India, where he had met with Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious and political leader.
The Iranian authorities have charged him with espionage in favour of the United States, which, according to the Intelligence Minister, have provided him with necessary tools to carry out a “velvet, colourful revolution” in Iran, without being able to present any documents sustaining the claim.
A former reformist lawmaker, Mr. Mousavi Kho’eini was detained two weeks ago while taking part at a rally staged in Tehran by Iranian women demanding equal rights with men, as under Islamic laws, women are considered half of a man.
Mr. Mansour Osanlou, a leader of the Tehran Bus drivers, was arrested three months ago at the start of a strike by the Company’s workers demanding higher wages and better work conditions.
“We chose three detainees from three different movements as the symbols of the political prisoners in the Iran and are staging a hunger strike to defend them. They include Masoud Ossanloo from the labor movement, Akbar Moussavi Khoeini from the students’ movement and Ramin Jahanbegloo, an intellectual. These people are illegally detained and are denied their basic rights. They are also under constant pressure to say that they are spying for foreigners. By being here we want to tell their families that we feel your pain and at the same time draw the attention of the world to human-rights abuses inside Iran”, he told Nesweek’s Maziar Bahari.
A supporter of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Mr. Ganji served in the Revolutionary Guards and in the State apparatus, before, with the passing of time, he realised that the Islamic revolution was an illusion, that religion can not be mixed with politics and nothing replaces democracy, points he raised in a three volume pamphlet entitled “Manifesto for Republicanism”, a book in which he outlined civil disobedience and no cooperation as tools for peaceful regime change.
“Without freedom, without democracy and without human rights, there is always the danger of a war”, he told a cheering crowd, adding that Iranians do not want war and shall not allow the regime involving in adventurism”.
As an investigative journalist, Mr. Ganji was instrumental in revealing the participation of high-ranking Iranian officials in the assassination of hundreds of dissidents, an action that cost him a ten years imprisonment.
He was released in March this year, having spent six years behind bars, from where he continued his calls for replacing theocracy with a secular, plurastic, parliamentary democracy through peaceful means.
“I’m not a revolutionary. I’m a pacifist. The situation in our country is much worse than before sine it is taking us to situations which we absolutely don’t want, including into a war. This regime is taking Iran to annihilation. What we want is democracy, freedom, human rights. But before, we want our nation in its totality. What would we do with democracy and freedom if we don’t have a country?”, he said, looking frail but jovial and determined.
“Peace, democracy, freedom, human rights, all the things which are our mottos can not be achieved under totalitarian regimes, therefore, one has to start with changing the regime”, he said, stressing on the non violent type of the struggle he is calling for.
“Those are some who says because we are against war, we must support the Islamic Republic. Actually, we are against both. We don’t want war. With a democratic regime, nobody would put pressures on us even if we want to have nuclear weapons, arms which we don’t need anyhow. But if we are under such a tremendous international pressures, it is because of the nature of our present regime that has dishonnoured Iran and Iranians”, he added.
Iran is today an archipelago of prisons. All people, books, newspapers, joyful songs, each single voice spreading information are in chain.
“This regime in Iran has to change. But it’s the Iranians themselves who have to change it”, he told the American weekly Newsweek.
Ganji expressed concern about the widening hostilities in the Middle East, saying: "This is fundamentalism - Muslim, Christian and Jewish - that is setting fire to the region, and we need to isolate this fire, this fundamentalism".
On a world tour, Mr. Ganji visited Moscou, where he received the Golden Pen Award from World Journalists Congress, Florence, where he became an honorary citizen, Rome, Paris, Koln, Berlin and London, delivering speeches centered on his peaceful struggle for regime change, urging solidarity and unity of action among all Iranian peace lovers inside and outside the country.
“People ask who to continue the fight. This means that all agree with the necessity of continuing the struggle. To this effect, we shall expand our networks of communication, consolidate and improve commandment, attract more groups and people to our cause and inform each other about our experiences”, he suggested in New York.
While in the United States, Mr. Ganji would meet with several American and Iranian scholars, writers, thinkers and politicians but not with American officials.
“Iran is today an archipelago of prisons. All people, books, newspapers, joyful songs, each single voice and unit spreading information are in chain. We are for freedom for all, freedom of mankind, freedom of pen, freedom of happy songs, freedom of political prisoners, freedom of progress, information, freedom for solidarity and responsibility, for freedom and democracy”, he hammered out. ENDS GANJI 16706