Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ganji: All Roads to Democracy are Closed

Seyed Ibrahim Nabavi, Rooz Online:
Akbar Ganji, the imprisoned Iranian journalist who was released last month and who is currently on a European trip to an audience in Italy that under the current political structure in Iran it was not possible to implement any reforms. During Hitler’s fascism the Gestapo was created to control and spy on the opposition, Stalin created the KGB for this purpose and Italy a special organization too was formed. But controlling people through the police is the worst way. A simpler way is to give freedom to people. I mean freedom as a process to gain information. If we reverse this we will arrive at the relationship between the public and freedom. In a free society, people behave freely to gain information whereas if society is not free, people can hardly gain information. Now how does the Iranian government look at this? I will mention freedom of the press. The debate that the Iranian government has formed centers on the issue of an ‘enemy.’ Iranian officials argue that Iran has an external enemy which plans to attack the country. The way this enemy wishes to accomplish its goal is through cultural invasion for which it needs a domestic base. The Iranian press is that domestic base. Therefore, officials argue, journalists are agents for the enemy, and suppressing them is a national measure.” READ MORE

In another part of his talk, Ganji said that in analyzing the situation in Iran one needed to pay attention to two things. “The legal structure and the real structure of the regime. The legal structure, which is based on the constitution, almost all the power rests with the leader and institutions under his control. Even though separation of powers is provided for in the constitution, this is not the actual arrangement. You may think of a referendum about the regime, as this is provided for in the constitution too. But in reality a referendum must be approved by the Guardians Council which we know will veto it. Another way is to amend the constitution which is also provided for in the constitution. But this very document also says that any change of the constitution must be carried out through the supervision of the leader. Furthermore, members of the Constitution Amendment Council too are appointed by the leader. Currently, the general plans of the regime in all fields are determined by the State Expediency Council, whose members are all appointed by the leader as well. As you see, there is absolutely no possibility to reform the system under its legal structure. This is true only if the reforms are for democracy and freedoms. So if we returned to the events of 8 years ago, the same results would be produced. [Translators Note: this is a reference to the election of reformist president Mohammad Khatami and the failed attempts to reform the system from within and open it to democratic forces.] The real structure – as opposed to the legal one – is even worse. The military and security agencies are very strong and they interfere in all facets of life. The power of the leader and institutions associated with him are ten times more powerful than the legal provisions. There is no possibility for any action. On the other hand, we are faced with meaningless concepts. We have a parliament, but in fact this is not a true parliament. We have a president, but in fact he is only the office manager for the leader. So when we hear the president say something, it is really the leaders speaking through the president’s voice. All the things that are said about the nuclear issue are the views of the leader which are stated by others.”

We do not want war, we want peace. But to achieve it we must talk,” Ganji continued. “The requirement for world peace is world disarmament. Is Europe ready to defend a general disarmament? From the view of Iranian intellectuals, the position of the Iranian government regarding nuclear energy is not a wise one. They argue that because Israel, Russia, China, the US and Pakistan have nuclear weapons it is our right to have them too. But this is pouring fuel on fire and promoting war. Instead, we should spread the word of disarmament. Another step for us is to defend direct talks with the US. Iran can protect its interests better if it engages in direct talks.”

At the end of his talk, Ganji reiterated that he opposed revolution. “I am against revolution and view myself as a reformist. I agree with civil disobedience. This is a method that is used all over the world But in Iran civil disobedience bears a very high price. We need the spiritual support of Europe and the world. Human rights are not an internal issue, but a human issue and the concern of the whole world. I criticize Europe for not well treating exiled Iranian journalists. These journalists are under pressure who continue to be viewed as foreigners. Europe must take more steps in the direction of changing this situation. I can raise even more demands but am sure I will receive negative responses. This is why I will stay content with spiritual support.