Monday, May 23, 2005

Boycotting all elections and insist on referendum: Akbar Ganji

Safa Haeri, Iran Press Service:
As the Council of the Guardians announced Sunday 22 May 2005 the names of candidates it decided fit to run for presidency, Mr. Akbar Ganji, considered as one of Iran's leading investigative journalist and writer, called on Saturday 21 May 2005 on all Iranians, particularly the democratic and free lover forces, to abstain from taking part in the forthcoming presidential elections in Iran, due on 17 June 2005.

Rejecting 1008 hopefuls out of the initial 1014 people who had registered, the 12-members Council, an un-elected organ controlled by the leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i kept former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Bahremani (Rafsanjani), former Police Commander Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, former Head of Radio and Television Ali Ardeshir Larijani, former Majles Speaker Hojjatoleslam Mehdi Karroubi, former Revolutionary Guards Commander Mohsen Reza’i and Mayor of Tehran Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad.

But the rejection of Mr. Mostafa Mo’in, former Higher Education minister and the reformists leading candidate backed by the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the country’s largest political formation led by Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, the outgoing President’s younger brother surprised many observers.

Mr. Ebrahim Yazdi, a former Foreign Affair minister and candidate of the Iran Freedom Movement which he leads, is also another prominent victim of the Guardians. Analysts assures that not only the rejection of Mr. Mo’in and Mr. Yazdi would certainly keep many pro-reform voters out of the ballot boxes, but it might as well place the Islamic Republic in a more difficult position internationally.

Both the IIPF and the IFM had said that in case their candidates are rejected, they would boycott the race.

Out of the six runners, four belongs to different factions of the ruling conservatives, one to the traditional reformer and the sixth, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, is in the middle.

Political analysts said except personal interference by Mr. Khameneh’i in favour of a certain candidate, namely Mr. Larijani, now the leader’s personal Representative at the Supreme Council for National Security, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Chairman of the influential and powerful Expediency Council is likely to re-occupy the seat he held from 1989 to 1997, if not in the first round, but certainly in the second tour of balloting.

Pointing to several “key problems” making elections under the laws of the Islamic Republic meaningless, if not a parody, the 45 years-old Ganji also reiterated “civil disobedience” and “no collaboration” with the ruling ayatollahs as the “best ways” to democratization of Iran.

In a political system that forbids women and the Sunnis (Muslims) from becoming president, where one man holds all the powers and is above the Constitution, all laws and other human beings in the one hand and the Council of the Guardians that has the right to reject any candidates, -- as seen in its latest move -- there is no point for the people to go to the polls”, Mr. Ganji said in the second chapter of “A Manifesto for Republicanism”, published three years ago.

Ganji was first arrested May 1997 and jailed in the notorious Evin prison for 90 days after a conference he gave in the southern city of Shiraz on the “Theoretical Fundaments of Fascism”. He was again detained on 22 April 2000 following his participation in an conference held in Berlin on April 7-9 entitled "Iran after the elections", at which some 17 journalists, lawyers, scholars and intellectuals supporting reforms had also taken part.

Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment plus five years internal exile on January 2001, he was detained incommunicado for 80 days, and allegedly tortured in detention.

On 16 July the same year Ganji was again condemned to six years in prison on charges of collecting confidential information that harms national security and spreading propaganda against the Islamic system for his attendance at the Berlin conference and for a series of articles he had written implicating leading Iranian political figures in the November 1998 assassination of several political dissidents and intellectuals, known as “Serial Murders” at the hands of senior officials of the Intelligence Ministry.

His best-selling book, “Dungeon of Ghosts”, published in early 2000, implicated Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, then president and his dreadful Intelligence Minister, Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian in the murder of Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, leaders of the Iran’s People Party and writers and human rights activists Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Ja’far Pouyandeh.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, which is based on Islamic laws, not only is basically anti-democratic but also irreformable. Therefore, the only way to replace it with a real democracy is a referendum, offering the Iranians to freely choose their preferred regime”, Mr. Ganji suggested.

“Spending 1855 days in prison, suffering various illnesses due to long-term jail, absence of freedom, contacts with family and friends, corporal and psychological punishments, psychological and mental pressures on the family, supporting all kind of fabricated lies, humiliations etc are all part of the price a dissident has to pay for expressing his views in the Sultanate regime of Islamic Republic of Iran”, Mr. Ganji noted in the preface of the second chapter of his Manifesto, published on independent internet websites.

There is no doubt that the publication of the second part of the Manifesto for Republicanism would lead to new costs for the writer. It is crystal clear that the leader cannot take the slightest of criticism. The leader is a divinity that must be only worshipped, understanding no other relationship but that of god and his slaves. In Evin prison, he has created specialised, modern jails to himself like the Section 2 A (belonging to the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards) and another one in the first floor, Section 240 (for the Judiciary) and another part of the Section 240 that is operated by the intelligence department of the Police”, he disclosed.

Explaining why, in his view, people should boycott elections; Mr. Ganji cites, among other hurdles, the division of the people in different categories, starting by those who are faithful the Constitution and those who do not agree with it and as a consequence, are deprived from their civic rights, “meaning that Iran does not belong to all Iranians”.

Further more, one has to announce its full adhesion to the principle of velayat faqih, meaning to the absolute rule of the ruler”, he pointed out, adding that the Council of the Guardians can, on various grounds, reject the candidacy of the opponents, arguing their non obedience to Islam, or to the Constitution, the velayat faqih, to (Grand Ayatollah) Khomeini etc”.

Discrimination in access to public media, mostly the conservatives-controlled Radio and Television that is directly controlled by the leader, frauds in the polling stations during voting and counting the votes, changing ballot boxes in favour of desired candidates or increasing the number of the voters etc.

“In any case, the president, no matter of his personality and competence, has to work within the framework of a regime where all powers are concentrated in the hands of the leader alone”, Mr. Ganji went on saying.

More than in the first part of the Manifesto, the author points his fingers to the utopias, if not incredulity of the so-called official reformists, stating that “the path in which the reformers walk in is not the one that leads to democracy in Iran”.

The passage from sultanism to democracy is possible by delegitimisation of the ruling system, by non collaboration with the sole ruler, but by cooperating with the authoritarian leader, the reformists have in fact provided it domestic and international legitimacy”, Mr. Ganji stated.

The result of the futile thought of the reformers thinking that by an active presence one can do something was that in fact they acted as the show window of the regime inside and outside the country. Not only the wide spread collaboration of the reformers with the system in the past eight years by their presence in the Executive and Legislative powers had no fruits for democracy in Iran, but also produced legitimacy for the despots”, he went on, taking the action and behaviour of Grand Ayatollah (Hoseynali) Montazeri as “the best example and method for delegitimating despotism”.

In the 60 pages pamphlet written in prison, the outspoken dissident had already proposed “peaceful civil disobedience” as “the best mean” to “force the hands” of the present conservative rulers to accept referendum and described as “euphemism” President Mohammad Khatami’s theory of “religious democracy”, saying that Islam is anathema of the ideal of equality and democracy, as seen in the situation of women or Muslims and people of other faiths in Islamic societies.

The “Manifesto”, presented by its author as “a model to passage to democracy” immediately received a huge welcome from Iranians, mostly students, scholars, political dissidents and activists in Iran and abroad.

“The long, but illegal detention of this writer is one of the cases that helps to understand what the religious democracy claimed by the leader really means. Not only the serial murders, but also the torture of the accused as well as lawyers defending the families of the victims and the assassination of Zahra Kazemi shows the kind of paradise, if applied, the religious democracy would create”, Mr. Ganji said.

An authoritarian system becomes weak and powerless only by a continuous and unabated abstention of cooperation with it, paving the road to democracy. Democratic forces and groups must, deliberately and wisely, disseminate the idea of no cooperation across all classes of the population”, he proposed, repeating and reiterating his full support for referendum and peaceful civil disobedience.

Turning his attention to international situation in relation with the Islamic Republic, particularly the position and pressures from Washington, Mr. Ganji does not see “plausible” an American attack of Iran but says that America’s decisions and actions towards Iran would entirely depend on the position and actions of the ruling Iranian regime.

“Basing on four cardinal points, namely Iranian nuclear activities, terrorism, Israeli-Arabs peace process and human rights, American decision makers are of the view that the present Iranian regime must gave up, leaving the place for a democratic system, he observed, adding thathowever, they differ with each other about the ways and means of the passage of Iran to democracy”.

“Maybe the elimination of this writer satisfies the leader. But one must not be afraid from a death for freedom, democracy and respect of human rights. Play with death started much earlier. One can not stop the flood of freedom. Be sure that the dawn of freedom would soon appear and children of Iran would stand witness to a regime respectful of human rights”, Mr. Ganji concluded. READ MORE
If you want to know what price some Iranians are willing to pay for freedom, read Ganji's manifesto.