There was a private gathering for Akbar Ganji at the Faculty Center of UCLA, last night, 8/8/06. [Audio here. Photos: “Having a blast“]
The attendants asked Akbar Ganji a series of questions in regards to his position towards the neglect towards human rights in Iran, the feminist movement, the mass killings of political prisoners and dissidents during the first post-revolutionary decade, the establishment of democracy in future Iran, and the failures of the reformist movement.
I managed to gather some of the most relevant and critical points that Ganji made and I hope that I can offer all of you some truthful and realistic glimpses into his stance on these issues. Please be mindful that Mr. Ganji’s beliefs do not necessarily reflect my own personal opinions, so kindly refrain from sending me emails on this ground. Thank you in advance.
1. Ganji initiated his talk by stating his beliefs on “forgiving but not forgetting”. He elucidated the fact that forgiving individuals does not imply forgetting the wrongful essence of their crimes. One does not forgive the crime, but the criminal. He asked: “what comes after condemning criminals?” and continued by saying that a rift is always created between the pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary activists. Pre-revolutionaries deem revolution to bestow paradise.
What occurs after revolution germinates hell, not paradise. Post-revolutionaries are usually averse to condemn their “sacred revolution” and therefore take the blame themselves. Revolutionary leaders have historically betrayed every revolution. It is the characteristic quality of Revolutions to betray their own objectives and to bring about mass suppression. A post-revolutionary can eventually enter the realm of understanding that it’s the ideology sponsoring the revolution which allows for violence to fester.
2. Ganji stated that Khatami did not have a “clear image” of the reform movement. The reform movement failed due to two principle reasons: 1. Iranian Reformers claimed to generate reformation without paying a price, but this is wrong, all reform movements must pay a price. 2. Reformers did not stand by their words and promises. Democracy needs to be materialized through action, and “ba halva halva kardan, dahan shirin nemisheh!”
3. Ganji also stated his views on the Israel-Lebanon war when asked about his stance. Ganji stated that what Israel is doing is atrocious because it’s killing the innocent civilians. He stated that Israelis have the right to independence and co-existence with the Arabs, though the urgency is to prevent the annihilation of the Palestinians. Unfortunately, all fundamentalists are feeding the fire: Israel, US, IRI, and Al Qaeda.
4. When questioned about the level of discontent in the Iranian elite compared to ordinary citizens, Ganji stated discontent in Iran is rampant and has been voiced by all strata: “the women, the workers, the youth, and the poor” due to existing inequality and economic corruption. There is widespread depression due to sexual oppression in the youth. We need to be able to voice our concerns but we lack the freedom to do so in Iran. We need to be able to analyze these issues in a “public domain”.
5. One of the most important highlights of Ganji’s speech was reviewing the reasons why Ahmadinejad was elected president in Iran:
1. Boycott of the elections: this eliminated millions of people who would have voted for the reformers.
2. Reformers did not act upon their pledge to the public and subsequently disappointed their devotees and admirers.
3. Reformers did not concur on one single candidate.
4. Rafsanjani is a negative symbol for the public; people did not want to vote for him. (Ganji followed by saying he had told one of his personal friends that even “Shemr” would win over Rafsanjani in Iran).
5. The Islamic Republic Guerillas and Guardians of the regime imposed on people to vote a certain way.
6. Cheating and fraud in counting votes.
7. Ahmadinejad sang his populist slogans with due infulence, and lastly
8. The radical policy of US and Israel has helped Islamic fundamentalism in the middle east. Iran is an exception, if a fair election would have been held in Iran, people would vote for a democratic government.
6. Ganji stated anti-violent actions do not imply “legality”. Legality and lawfulness of anti-violent and peaceful actions lose meaning in the eye of the IRI constitution. In the framework of the Islamic Republic constitution, can one have democracy? No. The three vital constituents of the government are all under the veto power of the “supreme leader”.
The IRI constitution can be modified only if under the supreme leader’s discretion. “raahe ghanooniye eslaahaat masdood ast”: “ the lawful way for Reformation is obstructed” in Iran. Ganji emphasized on the importance of practicing “civil disobedience”. He brought two examples: the prevalence of the “illegal” Satellite TV dishes on rooftops and the “loose coverage or bad hejaabi” by women. Ganji noted that Iran is the world’s number one consumer of make-up and beauty products!
7. In regards to his past, Ganji said that he has “no remorse” about any part of his former activities and he has no fear of talking about them. He also stated that regrettably there is no standard in measuring of calling on libel/accusation/slander. He stated that in London, Iranians had asked him “why he has not been hanged if he is truly a dissident?”
Ganji continued by saying that an “accuser” needs to have verifiable documents to substantiate his allegations; the “accused” is not the one who needs to justify his position. Ganji also said that some have labeled him the “Iranian Chalabi”, while he opposes by claiming that he has held a “transparent position.”
8. Ganji said that he does not believe in the “imported” version of democracy. He said that one can only export cars or other goods to countries, but not democracy.
He stated that the US project for the Mid-East region is completely flawed. Iraq is a live example of an “imported” democracy. Ganji said what he loves about US is that it’s much more transparent in its conduct compared to some other countries. For instance, in England, one can remain a secret agent for one hundred years without any one blowing the whistle, whereas in US, covert activities are revealed much more quickly.
9. Ganji stated that there are two theories for the progress of Iran towards democracy:
The first is that Iranians need to rely on their own internal forces. Ganji stated that he believes in the first theory, so does Hajjarian. The second is the belief that US needs to topple the current Iranian regime. Ganji voiced that the struggle for democracy should occur in Iran and that democracy can only exist in a secular government. He emphasized that one should be aware of his inclinations; the opposition towards IRI should not impel one to side with pro-American policies, neither should opposition to pro-American policies hurl one into the IRI front.
10. When asked how in the world he had his manifestos published during his imprisonment in Evin, Ganji stated that many political dissidents have published their letters, books, and manifestos while imprisoned. He gave prominent examples such as Antonio Gramsci, the renowned leftist (Ganji’s favorite dissident figure) during Mousilini’s rule, Vaclav Havel of Czech Republic, and Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
11. Ganji concluded his talk by saying that he is the “third script” and that he has his own independent path. He also condemned all forms of fundamentalism, such as Moslem, Jewish, and Christian. He expressed that “war is organized murder” and eloquently echoed this irrevocable truth: “NO War Is Sacred.” [Audio here. Photos: “Having a blast“]
Leila Farjami is a published poet, translator, Family and Child Psychotherapist, and Art Therapist in Southern California. Visit her web log at toomar.com