Ganji's letter to Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush
Akbar Ganji, Free Ganji: an English translation.
In the name of God
Merry is the gambler who lost all he possessed
‘Till he was left with nothing but the urge to gamble more
Dear Professor Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush
I received your compassionate letter of July 12, 2005. My dear teacher and professor you have shown kindness to your humble student and used titles for me which I do not deserve. Our relation goes back to the beginnings of the revolution. Your classes of General philosophy, philosophy of science, moral philosophy, the [divine] origin and the resurrection, the evolution of the essence, the private session of the two of us where I posed my endless questions and you answered them with patience and I learned a lot from you. Our friendship began in 1979 and it never ended, we always learned new things from you. It is only fair to state that our generation owes you greatly, it was through you that we became familiar with modernity, various interpretations of religion and the concept of a human being with rights of his own. We stepped into new worlds with you, you washed our eyes to see differently. It was not all about analytical philosophy and critical rationality either. You kindled a fire in our heart by introducing us to Rumi and Hafez [great classical Persian poets], a fire that will never die out. Is it possible to get to know the love experience of Rumi and not flee afterwards from the fanaticism of populists? Hafez, who revealed and criticized the hypocrisy of mullah-style faith and religiosity, warns us thatThe sign of God’s men is love, but keep this secret in your bosomHe taught us that the preachers "do all that is contrary to what they preach, once they find themselves alone and unseen by others", and that since they do not really believe in a day of judgment they change and cheat in [representing] the work of the ultimate Judge of All. They hide their corruption under their robes and their function is to open the gates of hypocrisy and deceptions. They are immersed in corruptions, but claim to be innocents. Their other service is to defend killers and murderers.
For I don’t see even a resemblance of this in the sheikhs of our town
They know nothing, but claim to be the holders of divine secrets. They break promises. The critique of Hafez of the religious society and its maladies is indeed endless, but his critique has to be complemented today. Hafez had no knowledge or experience of totalitarian societies and fascistic movements, because fascistic systems came to being only afterwards, after his time. The totalitarian system is one of pure fright and fear. It is the single-voice society where only the leader’s voice is to be heard, where civil society is completely crushed and the individual sphere is not recognized. The leader reaches the status of a god, and since he is a pathetic being full of fear of himself and of others, he covets to be feared by the people. The tyrant leaders see everyone in the shape of an enemy.
Yesterday’s friends are the enemies of tomorrow. He can’t be satisfied even with the death of his competitors, but wants to annihilate every name and trace of them in history and memory of all. He alone is what people must see wherever they go and wherever they look. We are faced with the passionate lust to create such a system. All our efforts and struggles is directed towards fighting this aim. Hafez is not among us to criticize this lust, so others like the lady of Persian sonnets (Simin Behbahani) must picture this lust and critique it relentlessly. Slaughtering the intellectuals and dissidents, shutting down all newspapers and imprisoning journalists, beating university professors and attacking universities like savages and barbarians, beating gatherings of pro-democratic forces with clubs and boxing-knuckles are no longer mere wishes and lustful dreams anymore. They are real instances of that lust whose endpoint is fascism. These are part of Nazi legacy that has reached Iranian fascists. Imprisoning dissidents in solitary confinements and torturing them to write letters of repentance and confess to crimes they have not committed, are exact imitations of Stalin. Stalinism means solitary confinement, means self-destruction to please the leader.
My dear friend, Dr. Ghazian has disclosed only a tiny fraction of the mess behind the case of the pollsters and the filthy acts committed by Saeed Mortazavi to please the leader. If Abbas Abdi begins to talk about this case one day and reveal the truth about other parts of it, only then will the depths of rascality and meanness behind it become clear to everyone. Others must tell how they were tortured to confess they committed adultery with a certain married woman. Yes, Mr. Khamenei knew and knows of all this. As Khomeini used to say about the Shah, if he has no knowledge of all that was going on, he was no real shah (king), if he did, then he shared the burden of the crime.
Yes, because Mr. Khamenei considered the media to be the base of the enemy and the intellectuals to be agents of cultural invasion [of the West], some of them were slaughtered and assassinated, some were thrown in jail, several of them were tortured, some were beaten and some other eliminated. It was supposed that by this not only the theories of the leader would prove right, but the imaginary enemies, the product of Agha’s (leaders’) mind, will be destroyed. You certainly remember what a fuss was made when the great espionage (the pollsters case) was discovered. But Abbas Abdi is now acquitted in the Supreme Court and Hossein Ghazian reveals part of the truth about what went through. Mortazavi made spies by using torture and fabricating false documents because Mr. Khamenei liked there to be spies among the reformists. They murdered intellectuals because Mr. Khamenei regarded them as enemies.
I’m sure you remember how Agha (Leader) sent club-bearing fascists to beat you in the Technical Department of Tehran University and had it not been for Reza Tehrani and I to surround you and bear some of the beatings and had you fallen onto their hands, today you would have been in a different situation. Certainly you recall one of the heads of the gang on that day who has now become a theoretician in IRIB (Iranian TV) first channel and philosophizes for other fascists several times a week on television and rides to fight with the modern world in the style of Don Quixote. The theoretician of violence and the defender of slavery [Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi] , the enemy of you and Dr. Shariati; once during the first years of the revolution sent someone to buy 2 kg of cheese, when that person returned with 3 kg, he quarreled with him a lot saying he didn’t have enough money until the end of the month! Now the two children of the theoretician of violence are billionaires and he himself receives money-order to the amount of 70 billion Rials of sugar and sells it in free market with tens of billions of Rials profit .You know what a sophisticated system and order he has created for himself in the city of Qom. All of this are his rewards for attacking you and other dissidents and for his defense of violence, terror and assassinations. Why else is he called the next Allameh Tabatabi and Motahari? This is one example of the regime’s fight against economic corruption! In other words the motto of social justice and fight against economical corruption and at the same time filling the pockets of agents of oppression, denying the likes of Dr. Soroush the career they deserve and handing it instead to the hooligans of the town.
We fought for freedom of speech and human rights, while dissidents were denied the right to live in this country. Once the terror and assassination machine was turned on inside and outside of the country to eliminate members of the regime’s opposition, it knew no limits, and every single dissident had to be eliminated.
It astounds me that Mr. Khamenei calls Iran the freest and the most democratic country in the region. We should ask what freedom are you talking about, when dissidents have no right to live. If you believe in free speech, then open and clear criticism of you (Mr. Khamenei) in the media is the measure for freedom of speech. If criticizing the political leader of the country, then one can’t claim there exists freedom of speech in that country. The fact that someone has to bear extremely heavy costs for indirect critique of the leader is no sign of freedom, but of tyranny, and of a totalitarian version of it for that matter. In June of 1997 I gave a talk about the foundations of fascism in Shiraz University. I didn’t think anyone would file a complaint against me, but with great surprise I was tried and convicted to one year of imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court under the charge of insulting the leader, instead of Hitler and Mussolini. When critique of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin is considered critique of the leader, how can anyone speak of freedom of speech and claim of democracy? In a democratic system critique if fascism is not punishable. More interesting still is Mr. Khamenei’s claim of democracy. How is it seen by men of knowledge when someone who has absolute power for life still claims his system is a democracy? It would be better if Mr. Khamenei only answers this one question: how can he be displaced without violence? How can one even talk of displacing him in power without getting slaughtered by knives? Mr. Khomeini used to say if the leader can’t or won’t answer when he is questioned or impeached, he is automatically disqualified. Let us ignore all previous questionings and impeachments. I now want for Mr. Khamenei to be replaced as the political leader of the country. Mr. Khamenei must respond clearly how I can reach this goal in a non-violent manner?
It is said that Reza Shah once asked Modarres what he wanted and Modarres responded: I want you not to be anymore. Mr. Khomeini too used to say Shah must go. Even if I could ignore my 2000 days of imprisonment, I can’t ignore the widespread breach of human rights by Mr. Khamenei, the tyrannical sultanist government, widespread governmental corruption, assassination of opponents and thousand of other cases. Khamenei must go , because he does not tolerate the others. Khamenei must go, because chain killings of dissidents took place during his reign. Khamenei must go, because more than one hundred journals were shut down and many journalists thrown in prison under his direct orders. Khamenei must go, because during the election process of the seventh Majlis (parliament) and the recent presidential elections he eliminated his opponents and elevated his devotees using oppressive and unjust methods. Khamenei must go, because he has forced millions of Iranians to disperse around the world and does not accept that Iran belongs to all Iranians. Khamenei must go, because hundreds of Iranian professors, Dr. Soroush is one example, do not have the right to teach and work inside Iran and instead of teaching the Iranian youth, they ended up teaching the youth of other nations. Khamenei must go, because he has brought to power those who decreed the murder of dissidents and the perpetrators of the murders of the prisoners in the summer of 1988.
Murderers became over lords
And the wise kept quite out of fear
It saddens me considerably to see some who are under the impression that it is possible to confront the sultanist system by cautious words about democracy and free speech, and to make the transition to a democratic system. We must never forget the wise words of Montesquieu that force can only be limited by force. Only by mobilizing the masses and forming of the front for democracy and human rights through civil disobedience can we confront the sultanist system. In the appendix to the second volume of my Republican Manifesto, I showed that the front for democracy and human rights cannot and should not be bound to the present Constitution. Otherwise we couldn’t move even a single step forward. Non-violence should be without a doubt a necessary condition for membership in this movement, but being bound in practice to the Constitution will never bring us to democracy and human rights. READ MORE
Our intellectuals will achieve nothing if they chose to sit aside and leave politics. The need to participate in politics is our inevitable destiny. Today everything is bound in the pangs of politics. Ignoring this fact will not liberate us from it. Emigrating from the country and settling in the West might solve part of one’s personal problems, but wouldn’t help the liberation of Iran. The immense intellectual and human resource of Iranians living abroad must return to Iran and they must pay their debt to the Iranian people. We need the ideas of our elite. If courage exists it has to be watered with theoretical wisdom to be able to walk in the correct path. All the freedom loving and justice seeking Iranian democrats should move hand in hand and form the movement of liberation of our country from the coil of sultanism. Agreeing upon freedom, democracy and human rights can open up a bright future for us. Corruption, injustice, various forms of inequality can be reduced considerably within a democratic system. The aim should be a progressive democratic government.
Dear and beloved Professor,
The reason I have stood firm is to show that it is possible to stand against darkness and ruthlessness. The letters and notes I have written all are nourished from the essence of my life. For tens of pages that I have written, I have lost 25 kg of my very flesh and blood. I wanted to show that even in the darkness of night, one can shine the light of hope. Otherwise, in the heat of July in Tehran, I lie down in a room with closed windows, with the air conditioners turned off, wearing two headbands over my ears and sinuses and with a blanket covering me to escape the cold, the coldness of winter that encompasses me.
It's unfair how cold it is, it is that cold … oh….
The air heavy, doors shut, heads down, hands covered;
Breaths coming out like clouds, hearts tired and sad,
Trees like skeletons made of crystals,
The earth dead, the roof of heavens low,
Full of dust, Sun and Moon,
It is winter.
[lines of a famous Persian modern poem by Mehdi Akhavan-Sales]
during 1991-92 I did a full study of the relationship between “Islam and democracy and human rights”. The result of my research turned out to be a text of 500-600 pages of a completely dissident nature and stand point. That work was meant initially to be published as the second book of my Republican Manifesto, but since I preferred to complete it outside of Evin prison and after discussions with specialists, I have left it with trusted people in a safe place so that it would be out of reach. If I die, that text will be published as the third book of my republican Manifesto.
I have always relied on God’s blessings and I know that he always looks down at his creatures with kindness and generosity. I miss you a lot. I wished circumstances made it possible for me to meet you again to talk about Rumi and take me with you to his universe, the universe of death pondering birds, amorous gambling …
God knows without you the city is but prison for me
Wandering in the fields and deserts is what I desire
My soul is sick of Pharaoh and his oppression
The light of Moses son of Amram is what I desire
I am certain that this night of darkness will not last long. The moon of freedom will finally step out of the clouds of religious tyranny and will shine rays of joy upon us all.The moon in one moonlit night
will enter my dream
take me out of this jail
like a bat, with itself
take me to the all black night
until the light of dawn, the martyrs of our town
will yell and shout, with the lanterns of their blood
in all the streets, in all the squares
O uncle Yadegar(memory), you who bare an old grudge
you are drunk or you're sober? you are asleep or you're awake?
we are both drunk and sober, O martyrs of our town
we are both asleep and awake, O martyrs of our town
at last in one of these nights
the moon will come out
behind that tall mountain, over that valley
will pass over this square all smile and laughter
in one moonlit night, the moon will come ooooooooout.
July 22, 2005
43rd day of hunger strike