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Hunger strike

And Ganji decides to die
Whatever happens next I have no doubt: Ganji never dies


Sa'id Farzaneh
August 1, 2005

Akbar Ganji, the Iranian imprisoned dissident on his 51st day of hunger strike, is perishing his life in Milad Hospital, Tehran. At the time of this writing, the latest news according to his wife Massoumeh Shafiei is that during a 5 minute meeting Akbar, on the verge of life and death according to his Doctors, fainted and she agreed that he should be syringe-fed to avoid his loss of life.

Ganji has been in the news and in front of the conscious of many Iranians as well as leading international politicians and personalities, world public opinion and human rights advocates for many days to remember now. Scanning Iranian media pages, however, demonstrates the Islamic regime's absolute determination of pretence of no big deal. The latest statement from the head of Iran's judiciary is based on the argument that Ganji has not been helping his own predicament during his temporary release and with his outspoken statements openly questioning the absolute rule of the clerical leader, Ayattolah Khamenei.

I have read many opinions about Ganji's hunger strike, signed petitions supporting his demands but begging him to stay alive, written letters to my Member of Parliament and received a reply demonstrating his concern as well as the representations by the British foreign minister on behalf of the European Union Presidency to the Iranian leaders to safeguard his life. I am, however, alarmed by the lack of any efforts by some of us at understanding where Ganji is coming from and accepting him for what he has decided to do.

In an opinion by the weblogger Hossein Derakhshan entitled "Why Bush prefers a dead Ganji" he writes: "Only a dead Ganji would give Mr. Bush a unifying symbol (a martyr) for the future phases of their desperate efforts to change the regime of Iran from outside. That's why they are all loving him so much. Because a dead Ganji will not be able to have nuanced opinions and could easily be hijacked by the neoconservatives for their own agenda. The authoritarian regime of Iran is smart enough to keep Ganji alive and to use him for their own future plans. ... Ganji, in my mind, has started a game in which the only winner will again be Khamanei and the biggest loser would be himself ˜ and of course Mr. Bush."

Derakhshan is not the only person who is judgemental on Ganji's decision and steadfastness in his political beliefs, and somehow miraculously links it with "Mr Bush" or Neo-conservatives' design for regime change in Iran.

This serious misconception is based on a number of falsehoods:

1. The Iranian regime is entitled somehow and by some undeniable rights or conventions to imprison those who criticise its leader and call for him to go. I am sitting peacefully in my London office and I can state categorically that "the Queen must go"! At most I would be branded as a minority republican sympathiser who is not in line with the mainstream British political opinion. The Ayatollah said the same thing about the Shah so many times - from 15 Khordad 1342 (1963) to Jan 1979 - and his maximum punishment was exile to Turkey, Najaf and then Paris.

2. A regime change can and will only happen in Iran from outside. Therefore, it is not Ganji that is calling the shots but Mr Bush. This is a misconception based either on the premise that all transitions to 'democracy' are somehow instigated by outside (the West) and the people in Russia, Poland, ... , Eukraine etc have just been pawns in this grand scheme; or that as in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran's transition to democracy will only happen as a result of direct forceful interference by a US-led coalition. This view emanates from a sense of dispowerment, frustration and helplessness that ordinary people, like Ganji, me and you cannot change things and ascribes any political change to "the powers to be".

3. Ganji's actions and decisions become void of its personal human dimension. Ganji is a 'political animal' and yes he has been calculating every response to the many letters from friends and threats from foes such as notorious Sa'id Mortazavi, Tehran's chief prosecutor-inquisitor, who has constantly been 'negotiating' his freedom terms with him. But after all he is also a human being and can decide for himself whether he is to 'eat his words' and stay his stay in the dungeons of his captives or to take any other course of action he feels appropriate based on his new found personal and ideological viewpoint.

Of-course like many other Iranians I fear for Akbar's health and well-being. I want him alive and well, and the prospect of his death -- as with any other needless human loss of life -- lingers heavily on my shoulders too, but whatever happens next I have no doubt: Ganji never dies.

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Sa'id Farzaneh




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