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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Akbar Ganji Open Letter From Prison in Iran 

From today's New York Sun:

To All Free People
An open letter to the world from Evin Prison

BY AKBAR GANJI
July 7, 2005


Today is the 19th day I'm on hunger strike. I was on hunger strike for 11 days in late May. The second phase of my hunger strike started on June 11, 2005. In total, my body weight has reduced from 77 kg to 58 kg in 30 days of hunger strike; that is, 19 kg loss in one month.

I have been put in solitary confinement in section 240 [of the Evin Prison] and subject to extra punishments such as being denied telephone communications, having visitors, newspapers and taking a walk in the open air.

In authoritarian systems, lying turns from a vice to a virtue. Liars claim: we don't have any political prisoners, any solitary cells, there is no hunger strike in Iran's prisons, prisons are like hotels. They solve their problems by changing the names. They call solitary cells suites and falsely suppose the problem is solved. Would an ass transubstantiate into a parrot, if we called it so? Prison means deprivation of freedom. Does prison change in essence into a hotel by calling it so? (I am using essentialist terminology since Islamic philosophers are essentialist and consider transubstantiation an impossibility.) A political prisoner is one who is imprisoned because of his opinions and the expression of his dissenting views. All global human rights organizations have confirmed that during recent years hundreds of people have been sent to jail in Iran for being dissidents.

Tehran's lie-making prosecutor [Saeed Mortazavi] claims one day that Ganji is sent to a solitary cell for his hunger strike. Another day he says Ganji is taken to solitary confinement so he learns a lesson and he will stay there until he learns it. Yet in his last statement he says: "Since Ganji has respiratory problems, doctors have recommended that he stay in a quiet environment away from disturbance." Liars forget their previous lies, and make new ones. They have forgotten that the head of Tehran's Justice Department (Alizadeh) claimed a month ago that Ganji was not sick. Now they say that doctors have diagnosed him with respiratory problems (read asthma). Have doctors recommended that Ganji stay in solitary confinement, be denied telephone communication, visitors, reading newspapers, fresh air and sun? Did they order to forcefully put a drug dealer, sentenced to 15 years in jail, in Ganji's cell at 12:20 a.m. on June 17 to finish him off? (They took that drug dealer on Thursday June 16 to Tehran's prosecutor and Saeed Mortazavi had briefed him well on what he had to do that night. The person who had accompanied him from Mortazavi's office to my cell on 8:12 p.m. was telling the wardens that if it had been up to him, he would have tossed Ganji's dead body on the floor himself. Of course I refused and did not let him in my cell and left the cell myself. I have explained that night's complete story in a separate letter.)

Let it be known that if learning my lesson is to denounce my previous opinions, Ganji will never learn his lesson; that all my writings, especially the first and the second book of the Republican Manifesto are the result of deliberation and knowledge. The relentless critique of my writings is the job of others. Let it be known that Ganji will not cease his indefinite hunger strike until he achieves his goal. Forcing repentance letters on prisoners is the method of Stalin's interrogators inherited by Iranian Stalinists.

Today my broken face is the true face of the system in the Islamic Republic of Iran. I am now the symbol of justice. The justice that, if viewed correctly, puts on display the full extent of the oppression of the rulers of the Islamic Republic. My outworn body and face reveals, paradoxically, the claimed justice and the true oppression. Anyone who sees me now asks in surprise "Are you Akbar Ganji? What have they done to you?"

Yes, I am neither sick nor on hunger strike [sarcasm]. They have made me lose weight from 77 kg to 58 kg through improvised tortures. They hide this outworn body from the public to hide the reality of the Islamic Republic. Why do they not allow reporters to take and publish my pictures?

Happy it is when the touchstone of experience cometh in play
So are left disgraced those who conceal impure alloy.

[a line from a sonnet by Hafez, the 14th-century Persian poet]

As I have said many times before, if I die in prison, it is on the orders of Mr. Khamenei [the Leader]. Mortazavi gets his orders via Mr. Hejazi directly from Mr. Khamenei. I have opposed the unelected and indefinite rule of Mr. Khamenei. I have said that [his] life-time unaccountable absolute power is at odds with democracy. I said expressing this opinion will be faced with Mr. Khamenei's quick and harsh reaction. What took place proved me right. He does not tolerate any personal criticism. Karroubi, Moeen and Hashemi Rafsanjani all tasted Mr. Khamenei's "religious democracy" in this election. The widespread and organized interference of the Guards Corps and Basij caused the outcry of even Larijani's campaign staff and the person of Mohsen Rezaei. A sultanist system is at odds with democracy. In such a system the sultan rules supreme and everyone else is at his service. Mortazavi has told my wife: "What will happen if Ganji dies? Dozens die everyday in prisons; Ganji will be just one of them." These are Mr. Khamenei's words that are uttered through Mortazavi's lips. Ganji dies, but the demand for freedom, democracy, political justice, hope, aspirations and ideals won't. Love for others and self-sacrifice for people will always continue to live.

Akbar Ganji
Wednesday, June 29, 2005

This is an English translation from the "Free Ganji" Web site, which can be viewed at www.freeganji.blogspot.com

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