Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Lesson From Akbar Ganji’s Case

If we honestly look at the course that imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji’s case has taken, we can learn some useful lessons from it.

Three months ago at the height of the presidential race, domestic and foreign press focused on Akbar Ganji’s case. They admired his heroic hunger strike. Even his opponents began to express their admiration. International institutions, human rights groups and personalities from Kofi Annan to George Bush called for his release and gave prominence to his calls. Pressure was applied from all fronts onto the Islamic Republic to address the issue. The mobilization of world opinion was the product of Ganji’s determination and resistance. I say all the credit goes to him because when the time came to actually something concrete about it at home, only a few were willing to pay the price of making a direct claim on the government. About two hundred held sit in demonstrations and some were arrested.

In the course of this event, there were those who gave up, there were opportunists who changed colors, there were threats, there was force, etc. These are all part and parcel of any serious political struggle. So what was the product and achievement of all these? Yes, the Islamic Republic was shown one more time to be a violator of human rights. But what else?

One result has been that Ganji was removed from Milad hospital where he had been quarantined for weeks, and taken back to a solitary confinement cell in the notorious Evin prison, where he is again denied his visitation rights and is thus cut off from the outside world. One of his defense attorneys, not Shirin Ebadi, visited him for a few hours recently and said the fact he (the attorney) could visit him, shows that Ganji is in better health!

As an Iranian and someone who cares about Ganji and my country, I am unhappy about the outcome of this situation. I see indifference taking over, even in a case like his. I call on all political activists and groups to take another look at what happened and where we are today. Perhaps, as I believe we can, we should search for lessons from this event, and learn to improve ourselves and the way we struggle. I believe there is a lesson in this.