Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Fresh Look into Iran

In the year of our Lord nineteen hunred seventy-nine, American hostages were captured in their Embassy. Their captivity lasted 444 days. This was the Iranian Revolution. That was a victory for the hard-liners because while the attention of whole world was on the hostages, "they had annihilated all internal opposition and consolidated their grip on power."* They still crave it today.

Still today, so much is printed about their plans for nuclear weapons. Yet, the real story, the story of reform, goes quietly unnoticed by most of today's media. This is a miscarriage of reporting justice.

There is one lady, Roya Hakakian, who knows about Iran very well. She was a little girl during the revolution (I believe), and she is Jewish. She was also Persian but to the Mullahs, this was unacceptable. This is why the article she has written is so riveting, both in content and manner.

She has written about the true star of Iran, Akbar Ganji.
Twenty years ago, when I was a disillusioned teenager in Tehran, the possibility that I would someday write in defense of a former member of the Revolutionary Guards would have seemed unthinkable. The Guards had robbed the Iranian people of the egalitarian dream the revolution had once instilled, even in minorities -- even in a Jewish girl like me. But for my change of heart, I deserve no credit. It is Ganji, and others like him throughout history, whose quest for justice soothes the wounds of a dictator's assault, and leads the bitter exile to forgiveness.
Akbar Ganji has been on a hunger strike now for over 70 days. While people are claiming he has broken his strike, they may just be hoping. He would not break his strike for his beloved mentor, he will not break it for the man he claims must go--Khomeini.

He has been in prison for 5 years of a 6 year sentence for writing about the crimes and murders of dissidents by the Iranian Guard and Khomeini. He refuses to denounce his books, so in prison he stays. What is so special about this man?

Ganji was one of the Revolutionaries. He moved up all the way to gain Khomeini's trust. In 1985, he was "assigned to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance appointed him its cultural attaché in Turkey."*
[The] evolution that took Ganji from hard-line Islamist and fervid supporter of the revolution to Iran's most outspoken advocate of secularism, the embodiment of a metamorphosis that the Western world longs to bring about in the Middle East.
Even before this time, he had begin to notice some discreprencies. He began to question his loyal support of a regime that stole the dreams of it's people.

While in Turkey, he managed to convince the people there not to follow in the way of the hard-liners. This may be the reason Turkey is even considered today to join the EU. (They sure did not confess and apologize to Armenia for their atrocities. Save that for another day.)

As most reasonable people do, Akbar Ganji decided to try to reform the regime from inside when he returned in 1988. He became a very well known in Iran writer.
It was there, under the mentorship of Abdolkarim Soroush, one of the world's leading Islamic theoreticians, that Ganji reexamined all of his most venerated totems: Khomeini, the notion of the Islamic republic, and finally Islam itself. He remains to this day a believer in God and in Islam, but -- after years of imprisonment -- he also believes that separating religion and state is an essential prerequisite for democracy.
There were many who doubted his awakening. Reformers, for one. After all, he was close to Khomeini. The Left, who accused him of being a puppet for the CIA and the West. This was a very usual stance for the Left of anyone who defied the Intillectuals. (Gosh, that sounds familiar.)
Courage has been in ample supply...there have been many others just as resilient as Ganji: Abbas Amir-Entezam, deputy prime minister of Iran's post-revolutionary provisional government, refused to sign a recantation letter that would have absolved him of the charge of "espionage for the Great Satan," and remained in prison for 20 years. The journalist Faraj Sarkuhi, kidnapped by intelligence agents in 1996, managed to send a note that told the world about his captivity and brought about his freedom.
Yes, there many of brave men and women of Iran. There still are. Ganji is now the symbol of all the courage of the great nation of Iran.

In his third letter, Ganji writes a letter responding to his mentor Soroush,
He respectfully defied the master who taught him much of what he knows. Recalling the experience of Italy under the fascists, he declared that the supreme leader is Iran's Mussolini. And as the master instructed, a tyrant should not be tolerated. "Freedom and democracy come at a price,..."
Ganji's responded by declaring he was ready and willing to pay that price for his beloved country. God bless you, Akbar Ganji. May you be released before it is too late.

*Quotes taken from Hungering for Reform in Iran By Roya Hakakian


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