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In praise of life: On Akbar Ganji

By Fariba Amini

When Akbar Ganji went to Prison, many Iranians said "he is one of them". They branded him, a practice which is all too typical in our political culture. Yet he wrote letters and books and sent his manifesto from prison and maintained his innocence and immense loyalty. Now, he is not only praised for incredible bravery in enduring a long prison term, but he is also on a hunger strike which could potentially end his life. He is speaking for all that we hold noble: freedom and respect for human dignity. Like many, I saw his photo, his visage thin and lifeless, and it pained me.

A recent photo of Akbar Ganji

He is my hero as he is the hero of many. But when Rumsfeld and his partners call for his freedom, we should be careful. Mr. Rumsfeld, whose hands are tainted with an unwanted war, the destruction of a nation, and the death of countless innocents, does not have the integrity to take sides with Ganji. Those who today, advocate freedom yet chose to hold people in captivity without due process have no right or the good intentions to defend prisoners of conscience. Those who kill innocent people in the guise of necessity for freedom and democracy do not have the right to be on our side. We do not believe in their cry of freedom. They do not have an ounce of humanity to feel what Ganji feels today.

Ganji is showing pure courage and determination by enduring pain and anguish for what he stands for. Mr. Ganji has clearly stated in his letters from prison that although he may be physically weakened by his self inflicted hunger strike, he means business. As Iranians, we should be proud that a person like Ganji is showing courage in the face of captivity. He will not budge and he will not ask forgiveness for telling the truth, even with the loss of his own life as a possible outcome.

In today's world, life and respect for the living is all but a forgotten phenomenon. We were all appalled and saddened when innocent lives were lost in the London bombing last week. We are appalled by suicide bombers who act as martyrs for the cause yet they destroy life. We are all part of this ongoing war against injustice and ignorance. Yet, we should not forget that honor and respect for life is a universal truth. Akbar Ganji is a hero today, even to those whose notion of heroism is clouded by the injustices they inflict on others. What Ganji and people like him want is what we all strive for in our daily lives, freedom of choice, freedom of opinion, the freedom for a better life.

In a show of courage as the outgoing President, which has not been a strong characteristic of Mr. Khatami, he should ask for the unconditional release of Akbar Ganji, so that he could put an end to his hunger strike and go back to his family in his frail condition. If we are to respect wisdom and honor, then Akbar Ganji is worth so much more alive than dead. We do not need or want any more martyrs. We need Akbar Ganji to remain our hero in life rather than in death.

In our country, life and death has lost its meaning. In his defense, we should all cry loudly that we do not want an Iran with political prisoners. We want an Iran who used to be famous for its praise of life, which brought to life Rumi, Hafez and Saadi. The verses of Saadi are carved and manifested in the Hall of Nations at the United Nations - that all human beings are from the same essence and when one falls, we are all affected. We should remember these words very carefully and tell the world that Iranians are not "evil" as we have been portrayed, but we have heroes like Ganji who still believes in the sanctity of human life and whose courage astounds and inspires us all.

... Payvand News - 7/18/05 ... --

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