Paris, 13 Jul. (IPS) As hundreds of thousands of Iranians are preparing for a three day hunger strike to protest the deteriorations of human rights situation and conditions in the Islamic Republic of in Iran, Mr. Akbar Ganji, Iran's most famous opposition figure, is due to arrive in New York on Saturday to lead a hunger strike in front of the United Nations.
At about the same day, hundreds of similar actions would be organised is more than 35 cities around the world, with thousands of Iranians of all walk, as well foreigners, starting a three day hunger strike in support of better human rights conditions in the Clerical-led Islamic Republic.
During the past year, Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad’s government has sought to monopolize power in Iran by silencing and suffocating all independent and dissenting voices.
Mr. Ganji, now in a European tour, served six years in prison, charged for propaganda against the Islamic Republic and endangering the State’s security, but the real reason was the revelation of high-ranking officials, most of them senior clerics, in the assassination of several leading and popular politicians, intellectuals and human rights activists.
A former islamist revolutionary and official of the regime, Mr. Ganji reached the conclusion that religion must be separated from politics and in a series of pamphlets wrote in prison, he floated the idea of civil disobedience and not cooperating as a mean for smooth and non violent regime change.
In several conferences and lectures in Moscow, where he received the World Journalists Award of Golden Pen, in Florence, where he became honorary citizen, in Rome, Paris, Berlin and London, he repeated that he is (no more) a revolutionary, but a “pacifist fighting for the establishment of a secular and parliamentary democracy”.
From Paris, he warned the authorities back in Tehran that if they do not free the internationally acclaimed scholar and philosopher Ramin Jahanbaglou, the former reformist lawmaker Ali Akbar Mousavi Kho’eini and Mr. Mansour Osanlou, a leader of the Tehran Bus Company drivers, he would call for a world-wide hunger strike.
“Petitions and protests to end the abuses have gone unanswered. During the past year, (hard line fundamentalist Iranian President) Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad’s government has sought to monopolize power in Iran by silencing and suffocating all independent and dissenting voices. The suppression of demonstrators in Azerbaijan, Khouzestan, Kurdistan and Sistan and Balouchistan, the silencing of labor, women, and student movements and the vicious attacks on demonstrators throughout the past year, are all evidence of the ongoing and abhorrent human rights violations by the Islamic Republic of Iran”, said a statement released by a committee formed by hundreds of Iranians responding to Mr. Ganji’s call.
“By arresting and imprisoning intellectuals, lawyers, political activists, and labor leaders and by forcing the resignation or early retirement of dozens of University professors, Ahmadi Nezhad’s government is pursuing polices that are reminiscent of some of the darkest days of the Islamic Republic. In such an atmosphere, Iran’s democracy movement calls for the unity and support of people of conscience from around the world. Without such unity, there is little hope of stemming the appalling human rights violations in Iran and the growing authoritarianism of the regime”, the statement, from “free political prisoners” committee added.
“In response to this deteriorating situation, we the undersigned lend our support and welcome the suggestion of Akbar Ganji, Iran’s leading dissident intellectual who was recently freed after 2222 days of imprisonment, for a global hunger strike that demands the release of three prominent political prisoners namely: Ali Akbar Mousavi Kho’eni, a student leader and former member of parliament, Dr Ramin Jahanbagloo, a philosopher, professor and public intellectual and Mansour Osanloo, a prominent labor leader and executive director of the Worker’s Syndicated Union”.
Mr. Jahanbaglou, who also hold a Canadian citizenship and teaches at Canadian universities, was arrested a month ago on his arrival in Tehran, coming from India, where he had met with the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama.
Last week, Iran’s Intelligence Minister, Hojjatoleslam Qolamhoseyn Mohseni Ezheh’i, charged the universally known scholar for espionage on behalf of the United States.
According to Mr. Mohseni Ezheh’i, the Americans are preparing for a “velvet or colour revolution” not only in Iran, but also in other Central Asian nations, and Mr. Jahanbaglou was arrested in this framework, having the mission of coordinating various currents in this issue.
“This is the first time that Iranian authorities introduce the expression of coloured revolutions into the official jargon. That the Intelligence Minister talks about velvet revolution means that the country is ready for such peaceful, non violent event”, commented Mr. Mas’oud Behnoud, a veteran journalist based in England.
“The importance of means at the disposal of Mr. Jahanbaglou as well as his relations and communications attracted the attention of the (Intelligence) Ministry of him. Some of his activities were absolutely organized and organizational, point out to his mission”, Mr. Mohseni-Ezhe’i said, without providing the slightest proof of the scholar’s involvement in any political activity.
As for Mr. Mousavi Kho’eini, he was arrested three weeks ago while taking part in a demonstration organised by hundreds of Iranian women demanding equql rights with men and the abolition of Islamic anti-female laws that makes of women half of a man and the non Muslims half of a Muslim.
Part of Mr. Ganji's mission in America, Mr. Amini said, is to bring attention to political prisoners in Iran.
Since then, he is kept in solitary confinement with almost no contact with his lawyers and family.
For his part, Mr. Ossanlou was arrested after workers and drivers of the Tehran Bus Single Company staged strikes three months, demanding better working conditions and higher wages.
“In his visit to America, however, Mr. Ganji will not be meeting with any American government officials. He is seeking an audience with Secretary-General Annan, who, when first asked by this newspaper his opinion of Mr. Ganji's hunger strike a year ago, did not know his name. In an attempt to stay above the fray of internecine Iranian émigré politics, Mr. Ganji is refusing to accept support from any formal Iranian political parties based in America”, said the New York Sun in a report from Cairo.
But Mr. Ganji's refusal to meet with the administration, while holding court with one of the president's most virulent and partisan critics, sends a clear message to Iran's leading mullahs that many in the Iranian democratic opposition are not interested in the million that Congress promised them earlier this year in a special appropriation.
Quoting Mr. Mehdi Amini, a spokesman for the ad hoc committee arranging Mr. Ganji's visit to America, the New York Sun said yesterday that the former reporter and political prisoner did not want to risk arrest upon his return to Iran.
"He has said he is not willing to meet U.S. government officials. He plans to go to Iran and he does not want this to be a reason for the Iranians to rearrest him", the paper quoted Mr. Amini as having said.
Iran formally charged a Canadian Iranian professor, Ramin Jahanbegloo, this month with trying to foment a "velvet" or "soft" revolution in Iran by assisting a secular opposition supported by America. The professor was a scholar at the National Endowment for Democracy in 2004.
Part of Mr. Ganji's mission in America, Mr. Amini said, is to bring attention to political prisoners in Iran. Specifically, the hunger strike scheduled for this weekend will be to demand the release of the leader of Mr. Osanloo, Mr. Jahanbegloo, and Mr. Mosavi-Kho’ini.
While Mr.Ganji was on hunger strike last summer, Professor Noam Chomsky, whom Mr. Ganji has sought to meet, signed a petition urging his release.
“Additionally, we demand the immediate and unconditional release of all political detainees from the Islamic Republic’s jails but we specifically demand the release of the above mentioned persons who symbolize various groups of prisoners of conscience in Iran. Should their release not be secured, we, the undersigned, will begin a co-ordinated global hunger strike from July 14 through July 16, 2006 to draw attention to our demands. We ask for the support and solidarity of people from around the world who share our goals for a democratic Iran and an immediate end to all violations of human rights”, the petitioners say. ENDS PETITION 13706