The plight of the freedom-loving
Iranian dissident, Akbar Ganji, has now gained global attention. His ongoing
hunger strike, now into its fifth week at Evin prison in
Mr.Ganji, as many others, including even some of the highest ranking religious authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran, believes in certain fundamental human rights and values that are shared by all advanced liberal democracies in the world today. If we could summarize and squeeze into one phrase the essence of these inalienable human freedoms and aspirations that Ganji and, in fact, every liberal minded person demands, it is the right to dissent.
A recent photo of Akbar Ganji
The right to dissent includes the
right to free expression of one’s opinions without the fear of persecution. And,
it was in the exercise of this very right that Akbar Ganji ran into trouble with
the law. His most egregious sin has clearly been his criticism of the
foundational principle of
Mr.Ganji is, of course, right in his assertion that such authority assumed by a non-elected individual violates the very principles of democracy or the right of the people to freely elect the nation’s leadership. Furthermore, it is this kind of ultraconservative authoritarian rule that, according to Mr. Ganji and many other liberal, reform-minded, thinkers, is the obstacle to positive and long overdue cultural developmental processes that the nation rightfully deserves.
Here, Mr. Akbar Ganji is expressing a value judgment that deserves to be analyzed in greater detail. At first glance, such opinions and aspirations do truly harmonize with the cherished values and principles prevailing in the modern, enlightened and progressive societies throughout the world. Unfortunately, idyllic visions often prove too simplistic to withstand scrutiny in the real world.
First of all, how far can freedoms of expression be allowed to stretch before certain other fundamental and inalienable rights of a people are violated? In other words, is the freedom of expression an absolute freedom without limits or bounds?
The events of
The recent terror event in
The question that comes up is,
Who is in the position to determine what constitutes subversive, seditious, or
dangerous speech that might promote hatred and violence or lead to the
destabilization of the government or threaten national security? Is, for
instance, frisking an eighty-year-old grandmother in a wheelchair at the airport
a necessary measure in preventing potential acts of terrorism? How about
arresting a university professor who might have sent money to an organization in
The Israeli dissident, Mordechai
Vanunu, an anti-nuclear activist and whistle blower on
Why, one might ask, hasn’t the White House “demanded” Mr. Vanunu’s immediate and unconditional release as it has done regarding Mr. Ganji?
Clearly, there is a lot more involved here than meets the eye at first glance.
What was so subversive, anti-patriotic, un-Islamic or seditious about Mr.Ganji’s assertions that the concept of a Velayat-e-Faghih is undemocratic and unjust, to result in his incarceration? Is there anything truly incorrect in maintaining that a non-elected individual has no right to act as the ultimate guide or to play god over the destinies of a people? Where is it written in any Islamic text, the Holy Ghor’an or the Hadith of the Prophet, that one individual can reach the exalted status of an idol to be worshipped as God incarnate? Doesn’t the title “Supreme Leader” ring too much like “Fuhrer” of a few decades ago? And finally, isn’t this kind of glorification an antithesis to the Islamic fundamentals of down-to-earth egalitarian humility as exemplified by the Prophet himself when he declared, I am a human being like all of you?
That said, let us examine the other side of the coin.
Were we to put the issue to a
public referendum in
As it stands, and as the people
Who could argue that
We could well argue that, much of
the blame for
It would be difficult to argue against the universal aspirations of all human beings for liberty, freedom, the opportunity to pursue one’s ambitions and to live a fulfilled life. Mr. Ganji is certainly not unique in having reached such conclusions; his method of approach might be.
At this point, the fate of Mr. Akbar Ganji can take the following courses:
1- Mr. Ganji shall continue insisting that he is right in his method of approach, and will pay the ultimate price for his persistence. Riots will break out in the streets of the Capital and demonstrations by human-rights activists will be held throughout the Western World. He will be called a martyr for freedom and democratic values but, at least for now, he won’t be buried alongside other “martyrs” who lost their lives fighting for the revolution or the invading enemy.
2- Under increasing international pressure and internal persuasions, Ganji is released and his demands of being unconditionally freed are finally met. Unconditional means exactly that; it means Ganji may resume his activism and open dissent and criticism of the theocratic establishment without fear of prosecution. This way, Ganji might be on the way to accomplishing what his counterparts in even the most liberal democracies in the world cannot get away with these days. Might we be looking at a Caucasian Nelson Mandela, perhaps?!
3- Mr. Ganji might come to the appreciation of the fact that he is not an elected representative or the spokesman for the nation, either. Neither was Trotsky or Che Guevara. Yes, nations do need heroes, brave souls who risk life, limb and dignity to make their voices heard. But, with freedom comes responsibility. Championing the cause of dissent at a time that the nation is under siege casts a dark shadow of doubt over even the sincerest motivations.
No one can doubt Akbar Ganji’s
patriotism or his religious standing as a true Moslem. But, he is not alone;
there are many, many, Ganjis who have similar hopes and aspirations for a future
democratic, progressive and prosperous
If Mr. Ganji’s cause is indeed a noble cause, if his motives are truly honest and sincere, he can better continue his plight and pursue his goals as a living, breathing and contributing force. Starving himself to death is like forcing his own fate as did Mansour Hallaj, who continued preaching, Ana Al Hagh.
... Payvand News - 7/19/05 ... --