Paris, 29 June (IPS) During a four weeks trip that took him to Moscow. Florence, Rome, Paris and Berlin, Akbar Ganji, an Iranian freedom activist repeated many times that what Iranian freedom and democracy lovers need is “structure and leadership”.
“The democracy and freedom current is strong in Iran and abroad, the two must join their efforts. But what we lack is organization and a leader”, he said during a conference in Bonn, Germany’s former capital.
The present Iranian system is not a republic not a monarchy, but a clerical sultanate.
Having served six years behind bars on fabricated charges that have never been proved despite being extracted under psychological – if not physical – tortures, a time he spent writing a two parts pamphlet entitled “Manifesto for Republicanism”, Mr. Ganji, probably one of Iran’s most popular dissidents, is seen by many observers as the “missing leader”.
But all Iranians agrees that the main reason the authorities sent him to jail was his book, titled "Dungeon of Ghosts", a compilation of articles, in which Mr. Ganji concluded that highest officials of the regime, including the former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani -- who now chairs the powerful Expediency Council and his Intelligence Minister, Hojjatoleslam Ali Falahian, were the prime responsible for the case known as “Serial Murders”, in which, it was disclosed, high-ranking officials from the Intelligence Ministry directly conducted the savage assassination of several dissident politicians and intellectuals.
Emulating his once revolutionary hero Grand Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini’s famous injunction “the Shah must go”, in his Manifesto, Mr. Ganji called on Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the megalomaniac leader of the Islamic Republic to “leave in honour before it is too late” and at the same time thought fellow readers the essentials of civil disobedience, his principal arm for fighting against a regime that he describes as “sultanate”.
“The present Iranian system is not a republic not a monarchy, but a clerical sultanate more monarchical than the former Monarchy”, Ganji observed, adding, however, that despite its growing unpopularity, there are people ready to “die and kill for this regime”.
His motto is “no cooperation” with the regime by either stopping to work or, if they can not, “zealotism”, meaning full implementation of the laws and regulations to “invigorate” the people against the regime “peacefully”.
Ganji has challenged the legitimacy of Iran's Islamic establishment. He has also said that democracy cannot be achieved under the country's current political system.
“I’m not a revolutionary. In fact, I’m against revolution. I’m a pacifist and a reformist struggling for democracy, freedom and a secular, parliamentary republican system where all the people, without any distinction of race or gender of religion or ethnics are equal”, Ganji, a former revolutionary, told a gathering in Paris, adding: “there is one charter of human rights and one kind of democracy”.
“The Iranian Government has formed centres on the issue of an imaginary “enemy”. “Iranian officials argue that Iran has an external enemy which plans to attack the country. The way this enemy wishes to accomplish its goal is through cultural invasion for which it needs a domestic base. The Iranian press is that domestic base. Therefore, officials argue, journalists are agents for the enemy, and suppressing them is a national measure”, Ganji, an investigative journalist said.
In fact, on orders from Mr. Khameneh'i, more than 140 independent and pro-reform newspapers, weeklies and publications were shut and a dozen of journalists jailed, or silenced, or forced to leave the country, to the point that the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) gratified the Iranian leader as "one of the world's most dangerous predator of press freedom".
According to Mr. Ahmad Ra’fat, a veteran Iranian-Italian journalist who dedicated a great part of his recent book, “The End of Spring” to the author of “The Manifesto for Republicanism” and his struggle from prison, Mr. Ganji is a “fearless fighter opposing dictatorship by showing peaceful means”.
Anywhere in the region if free elections are held, islamist radicals would win except for Iran where democratic forces would come to power.
In fact, like most of fellow Iranian intellectuals from inside the country, he also likes to make extensive quotes from leading philosophers and thinkers like Kant, Hegel, Karl Popper, Kierkegaard, Hume, Keynes, Hobbes etc..
Asked about relations with the United States or the nuclear issue, Mr. Ganji says clearly that “we must talk to the Americans and have normal relations”. On the atomic crisis, he says “we are not sure that we needed it. Contrary to what the Government says and wants to make it believe, the nuclear is not a national issue”.
“I am against revolution and view myself as a reformist. I agree with civil disobedience. This is a method that is used all over the world. But in Iran civil disobedience bears a very high price. We need the spiritual support of Europe and the world”, he stressed, adding that “Human rights are not an internal issue, but a human issue and the concern of the whole world”, he said during a conference in Rome.
For some observers, Mr. Ganji is good in theories but lacks methods. “What he says about civil disobedience or non cooperation not only is not new, but also one wonder if it is enough to change the present Iranian theocracy that rules by the might of Allah and the point of the bayonet”, an Iranian journalist told IPS, asking not being named, “because I’m his friend and I don’t want to annoy him by my remarks”, a phrase that says quite long about the personage.
To others, by pointing to the visible lack of leadership and organization among Iranian opponents, Mr. Ganji implies indirectly that he should be the leader, provided others make for the organization.
“The Iranian democratic movement suffers from a lack of organization, structures and leadership. One has to provide the movement organization and a by democratic ways”, he said in Germany.
For Mr. Ganji, the present government led by the messianic, populist Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, in order to monopolize the leadership of Islamic radical movements, tries to show itself more radical than the al-Qa’eda and the Taleban. “The result is more crackdowns at home on the dissidents”, he pointed out.
“Anywhere in the region free elections are held, islamist radicals would win except for Iran where in such a situation democratic forces would come to power”, he stressed, adding that in Iran, human rights are grossly violated, opponents crushed, arbitrary arrests of dissidents and political and human rights activists widespread”.
Pointing to the cases of Ramin Jahanbaglou, an Iranian-Canadian philosopher and scholar of international stature, Ayatollah Mousavi Kho’einiha, a reformist cleric and Mansour Ossanlou, a leader of the Tehran Bus Company’s drivers and workers, Mr. Ganji warned the authorities of launching an international hunger strike movement if they are not released unconditionally.
Mr. Jahanbaglou was arrested more than a month ago at his arrival to Tehran, coming from India, where he had taken part in an international conference. Mr. Kho’einiha, a former lawmaker and owner of the daily “Salam”, a pioneer of Iranian independent press, was arrested two weeks ago while supporting a demonstration by Iranian women calling for their rights “as normal human beings” – denied to them under Islamic laws --. For Mr. Ossanlou, he had been detained three months ago during the strike by Tehran bus drivers asking higher wages and better working conditions. ENDS GANJI 29606