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Imam Ganji
It is time that we wake up, that we learn to omit our mistakes by not hearing of any person, organisation or group with the word “Islam” attached to it


July 26, 2006

Ganji recently launched a hunger strike in front of the UN for the release of political prisoners in Iran, mainly three IRI’s detainees. One of them, Akbar Moussavi Khoeini is a Ganji friend and a former IRI’s insider with a black record of involvement in the IRI’s repressive organs.

Needless to mention, tens of thousands of political prisoners in Iran, who are not ITR’s former insiders, are not in the centre of Ganji’s campaign. They suffer from inhuman conditions in IRI’s political prisons and some of them are waiting for their execution.

In the current atmosphere of hatred against the IRI, any annoyer, even a former IRI’s insider, who has courage to annoy the regime, is bound to win sympathy among Iranians. This is particularly effective when the annoyer can skilfully exploit the lack of any radical and democratic movement in Iran. In this perspective, Ganji is the most famous annoyer.

However, Ganji’s double standards on a whole range of issues remain his particularity. His past and his aims characterise these double standards. In this article, I try to remind some Ganji’s folded aspects.

What concerns Ganji’s past, he evasively avoids any clear reply about his eventual role in IRI’s crimes when he was a regime insider.  We all know that the most brutal phase of terror and repression in Iran was in the period of 1980s when Ganji was serving the IRI’s repressive organs. During his involvement in the Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Ministry of Culture and Guidance and IRI’s embassy in Turkey, the country was in the darkest years of terror and repression. Ganji knows better than many of us about the crimes and culprits of this period.

The IRI’s killing machine was extended over the boarders, particularly in Turkey where Ganji was 3 years cultural attaché of IRI’s embassy, where is used as an alibi for his absence from the scene of inter crimes. In this period, the terror, kidnapping and conspiracy against Iranian dissidents were constant topics of Turkish media.  But Ganji remains silent about his involvement in the embassy.

In the period that Ganji was serving State apparatus, tens of thousands vanished behind the bloody walls of IRI’s notorious prisons, jailed and tortured without trial, executed with no charges being laid and even young girls were raped before execution, according to Islamic rules. The most barbaric atrocity was the mass execution in summer 1988 due to the infamous death-fatwa of Khomeini.

About this massacre, Ganji describes the genocide as the consequence of the war of Iran-Iraq and violent attacks of opposition groups to the IRI.  What many political prisoners, who were already spending their imprisonment, have to do with the war or the clashes between the IRI and Mojahedins! Ganji, who pretends to be a follower of democracy and human rights, does not recognise that this or similar acts of the IRI were the flagrant crimes against humanity.

But Ganji does not distance himself from an Islamic system because it is both his political trampoline and, worse, his ultimate belief.  The suspect even rises that Ganji might have been involved in the crimes or even will be when the interests of such a system require.

Ganji does not mind repeating citations from Khomeini, as in his recent interview Ganji said “Ayatollah Khomeini said, our forefathers had the right to write a constitution for themselves and we have the same right to write our destiny. Right now we are demanding the same thing as Ayatollah Khomeini did before the 1979 revolution”. Such citations show that Ganji‘s political aims still rely on Khomeini and consequently on maintaining a “democratic” Islamic system.

Despite his alleged devotion for the human rights and democracy, his concerns about them remain purely Islamic. He emphasises his concerns by saying “I am the representative of Ayatollah Montazeri, Soroush... and all Muslim democrats”. Ganji attempts to impose his self-righteous Islam on Iranian society by regarding Soroush, one of the IRI’s criminals, as a democrat! He keeps ignoring that the main problem with democracy is Islam itself, not this or that form or person. It is not Ahmadinejad who “dishonours Iran”; it is Islam, a model of obscurantism, which is the historical cause of backwardness and despotism and creates Muslim lumpens like Ahmadinejad or his likes.

How can some one be democrat while believe in the Sharia, jihad, gender segregation, Islamic hijab, Islamic beard or any form of this nonsense? Was not “democrat”Montazeri the one who wrote four volumes theorising the Velayet-e-Faghih?

Are really Iranians in Ganji’s eyes so naive to believe in an Islamic model of democracy under the guidance of Montazeri or Soroush? Is that his powerful message of support for democracy and secularism for Iranian people? Is Ganji’s tour so prepared and so organised that he makes campaigns to associate some Islamic figures and concepts with secularism and democracy? Should Iranian democrats and seculars believe him, as some of them mistakenly believed Khomeini 27 years ago? Is he here to organise campaigns to set up barriers in front bof democratisation and secularisation of an Iranian movement abroad? Is his tour an intrigue to further split Iranian democrats abroad? What is now our bearded ex-revolutionary guard looking for in Europe and the US?

Ganji, who was only 3 years in IRI’s embassy in Turkey, an Islamic country, cannot imagine the justified hate that the international community has towards Islamism. Even Muslims, not necessarily Islamists, in the West feel more strongly about this hate than Ganji can imagine.

But if Ganji and other IRI’s former insiders want to be honourable members of a coming democratic Iran, they should open the eyes and ears to realise that people are fed up with Islam. They should open their mind to realise that their “worthy” Koran is not as worthy as a school book. They should be honest to realise that all interpretations of Islam from the early Othman’s bloody shirt along to today’s bloody differences among Muslim groups are not our business. We want to ignore all of them in a secular and democratic society.

Ganji, who has been muzzled by IRI’s officials since his release from jail, is now abroad and must have more courage to tell the truth. Of course, he is risking punishment on his return to Iran, but it is not the main reason for Ganji’s silence about Khomeini and his crimes. Ganji cannot and is not supposed to expressively tell the truth about all the IRI’s crimes in anytime and especially under Khomeini. He is a product of the IRI; he is not made from stuff, therefore has not abandoned his belief in Khomeini and a system of Islamic regime.

Whether Ganji intended or not, he now sets up the same trap as Khomeini did 28 years ago in France. He knows that some Iranians might have confidence in “saviour”, as once some had in Khomeini. He knows that some Iranians can periodically change the infamous slogan “Iran Rajavi, Rajavi Iran”, replacing with Ganji!

As I described in my previous article, The Ganji phenomenon, I am not against Ganji or other IRI’s deserters. Any deserter, provided is not charged with crimes or high treacherya,is welcome to the people. Any former Islamist can join the camp of people, but no former Islamist can be trusted by Iranians to form a “democratic and secular” movement. If we do not have yet such a stabilised movement, our “brave” democrats will form it. It would be an abuse of democracy and an insult on secularism, if a bearded Ganji or a veiled Fatemeh Haghjoo formed such a movement abroad. Furthermore, it would be an aberrant and demagogic movement, a destructive alarm for future and a shame for all Iranian democrats abroad.

Ganji is exactly where he wants to be, his tour is risking a repetition of history when Iranian democrats abroad remained paralysed as Khomeini in France was preaching about the democracy and gender equality.  But of course, Ganji is more vigilant than Khomeini. Contrary to Khomeini who surprises a whole nation by saying: "I have no feeling on my return to Iran!" in his flight to Iran after 15 years in exile, Ganji has learned how to show feeling for his people. Ganji knows his lesson!  But, have Iranian democrats learnt the trick? Ganji and his friends do not hope so!

When Ganji claims that he looks for no leading position, he shows a humble attitude that is a typical trait of his Islamic personality. In his interview with Newsweek, he says “I am a member of a civil-society movement and not its leader” but he continues “I am now willing to meet any world leader if it can prevent a war against my country”. Ganji finally resonances as if he were a speaker of a movement. He plays the role of a peacemaker and even wants to negotiate about it.

What concerns the future of the IRI, Ganji seems to be echoing the concerns of many disappointed Islamists within the IRI.  Ganji’s ambitions are reflected by the fact that his Islamists friends in Iran are in need; they need some ground to rescue political Islam from a dangerous tight corner, their Islam is both in Iran and in the world under increasing pressure. Terms like democracy, human rights, secularism are new cards. If the diversion as a means of getting out of their tight corners does not work, Ganji and his friends will certainly change their tactics.  

Ever since Ganji was a teenager, he had plans and dreams. He was not one of the millions of backups pulled from the streets willing to fight the shah’s dictatorship. No, he was conscious of Islam, he started working, fighting and philosophising for it. He believed in the sword and Koran and so became a man of gun and conviction, for him, Islam was a cross between jihad and God’s state, between blood and victory, between Muslims and God’s state. For him Khomeini does not incarnate only a descent from his prophet Muhammad, but mainly he is a reviver of prophet’s Caliphate.

Ganji’s future cannot be separated from his Islamic dreams. His career straddles the complex lines between Islam and his life. Therefore, he might be the shrewdest fighter in the rank of disappointed Islamists, but he is not the prototypical leader for a non-Islamic movement. Yet, tens of thousands of Islamist’s victims separate him from such a position.

He argues as he was not involved in any crime and violence against his people. I hope so, but a fair trial can better decide. The Ganji’s moral “forgive but not forget” perhaps will not help another pasdar Ganji.

In a democratic Iran, the justice will certainly not fail to investigate the roles of all people who were involved or initially supporting the IRI. Everything will clear up when the trial starts. The verdicts are based on the information that the court discovers. Facts must be researched; double and triple checked, evidence must be examined.

About an amnesty of the culprits, it is up to the court, maybe even not to the families of victims, to decide.  The process is according to the rules which were used for similar trials, namely for the Nazi in the process of war crime in Nuremberg in 1946. As far as we know, the major war criminals of the leadership corps, the SS (Nazi’s Revolutionary Guards Corps) and SD (Nazi’s Ministry of Intelligence or Guidance), the Gestapo (Nazi’s secret police), General Staff and High Command of the army were not forgiven. Ganji, who probably uses “amnesty” as a diversion from his background, seems to miss the point that the justice cannot be handled in a democratic society.

But Ganji’s phenomenon should not be mistaken for democracy, particularly when he happens to be the last saviour. Ganji phenomenon is a reflection from Qom, the Shiite holy city, where paradoxically is an active centre of opposition to the Supreme Leader, Khamenei. He is a prototype of disappointed Islamist generation, a generation looking for a new saviour of Islam.

Ganji phenomenon continues growing when all secular Iranians are not sufficiently active, when instead of forming secular and democratic movement, a part of our secular fellows still follow Ganji, Mojahedins and their likes.

No wonder that the international media does not defend our secular rights in Iran. In the mind of international community the established image of Iran is linked with the bearded fanatic men, veiled women in black chador or Islamic scarf, hysteria of collective self-flagellation, devotees for martyrdom, jihadist groups being eager to kill non-Muslims, white or black turbaned Mullahs. These are the conspicuous image of Iran in the western media. Only this image is be captured by the world’s imagination over the whole Iranian nation, including over their political opposition.

As in one of yet hottest summer in Paris, Maryam Rajavi recently showed up to hold a speech, she was wearing a thick Islamic scarf and a long mantel, it was like a joke to listen to her preaching about secularism and gender equality. The similar scenario is now staged by Ganji, a bearded ex-pasdar, defending “democracy and secularism” for all Iranians! No western journalist has enough self-confidence to ask veiled Rajavi or bearded Ganji if they really represent gender equality and secularism in form and concept and if they really represent a whole nation who is eager of secularism!?

But there is another image of Iran: one in which a great majority of Iranians reject any way of Islamic life, any form of Islamic regimes, any form of Islamic opposition. This image in the Western media is absent. This great part is branded by Islamists as non-believers, ignorant, satanic, and profane or foreigner’s spies.

More than the half of Iranians are younger than 30. They want to be a part of the modern world that the Islamist leadership brands as “Non-Muslims”. Iran has the world’s second-largest number of bloggers after the US. Iranians read more books than all the Islamic Arab nations combined. Few people go to the mosque, Islamic seminars, Islamic meeting, but the cinemas, theatres and concert halls are packed.

As I expressed myself in a previous article, Satanic cartoons, it is time to allow people to re-examine the backgrounds of their religions, and now it is about making people realise that they should reconsider if it was a human thought behind the Koran-- as well as the other Holy Scriptures.

Let’s show that the old bastion of any faith-based belief system, as holy as it might be, has no foundations; it rubbles with a little push of self-awareness. Let’s revolt against any culture of self-censorship of criticism towards religion. Let’s be courageous to say that it is not an overusing to defame any religion.

Iranian democrats have more work ahead of them; they should even open the debate over the Koran's claim to absoluteness, the infallibility of Muhammad (the Prophet), the aims of jihad, the women’s rights and sexual morality. And all of these debates of course bother Ganji and his friends today. They know that in a democratic Iran, such debates will objectively distinguish between the cause and effect by showing religion as source of evils. They know there will be no chance for Islam to survive. Therefore, they use any tactic to safeguard it.

Iran and Islam cannot proceed further together as time has come for all debris of the IRI, including Ganji, to give way to real democracy in the country. Under the rule of people like Ganji, there can never be a secular rule without being mixed with Islam, if not whole Islamic. And an atmosphere of backwardness and Islamism keeps prevailing in the country. Ganji’s anticipatory description of Islam fails the reasons provided to evoke it. The core point is that we do not need Islam as a whole or even component in political and social life.

And yet, the stage is being set by Ganji for a choice between the IRI and IRI’s Islamic opposition! Is that all what we deserve? Are we obliged to choose between a Mullah Omar and a Hamid Karzai, Saddam and a bearded PM Shiite, a harsh Islam and “soft” pro-American Islam? Are Ganji and his brothers on a course with some in Washington urging “regime change” in Iran? Are they dreaming of an Iranian model of Afghanistan or Iraq in future? The answer to these questions can write a crucial part of our history.

The Iranian Islamic opposition abroad are not different from their brothers in Iran. They portray Iran as a country standing against the modern civilisation, and bracket our people with a doomed Islamic identity. They twist the facts and invent a warped philosophy to justify the Islamic stewardship as a doomed destiny of our people.

They are responsible for political confusion and cleavage in the Iranian communities. In such a situation, the only option left to the secular Iranians is to extend the demand to form a democratic and secular opposition in lunching a struggle to rid the nation of all such Islamists.

It is time that we wake up, that we learn to omit our mistakes by not hearing of any person, organisation or group with the word “Islam” attached to it. Nor we should trust any of the Islamic dissidents, people such as Akbar Ganji, Abdol Karim Soroush, Banisadr, Rajavi couple, Hashem Aghajari and a big list of names who are sometimes linked with human rights and media circles. Their “alternatives” are in fact another face of the IRI. While the international community is engaged in what to do with political Islam, they opt to stay on the sidelines waiting for new tactics. All of them want to differently safeguard their “democratic” Islam from “profane” secular people. All in all, they are all in fact further obstacles on the way of an Iranian democratic and secular society. Comment

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Jahanshah Rashidian

Akbar Ganji


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