Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ganji: Violence in the name of Islam

Rooz Online:
On Monday evening Akbar Ganji, Iran’s most prominent investigative journalist who spent 6 years in prison and was finally released after a prolonged hunger strike 2 months ago and who is on a world tour, received the 2006 international Aubuchon award to his journalistic work in Iran. John AUbuchon was a veteran television correspondent.

At the awards ceremony, Ganji spoke on being a witness to the victims of violence. He warned of the growing militarism and war mongering that grew on a daily basis in the Middle East, leading to greater ethnic and national differences. Read on for the full text of his talk. READ MORE

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am most grateful to you for granting me this award. I take this, as I said before, only on behalf of all those individuals who have had to go through so much hardship throughout long years. I think of myself simply as reflecting their voice, and giving voice to the pains as well as the hopes and ideals of my people. My people feel most concerned that actions taken by their rulers should be put down in their name, and humane sentiments which they share with the people all over the globe should become thereby obscured.

I am a journalist and reporting is my profession. For sometime, my task has been to report on political assassinations, imprisonments and torture. I report in order to instigate protest. Over the past three days, we came together in an act of protestation, together with a large group of Iranians all over the globe, in Tehran, Ankara, Istanbul, Sydney, Toronto, Montreal, Stockholm, Vienna, London, Köln, Hamburg, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, Los Angels, Chicago and other cities. We engaged in a hunger strike to demand the immediate release of three prisoners in Iran whom we know are in solitary confinement and kept under torture. One is a labor syndicate leader, the other a prominent member in the student movement, and still another is a renowned intellectual. We demand that all political prisoners be freed, and our emphasis on these three constitutes an accentuation of three representative pillars of the democratic movement of the people of Iran.

In the closing part of Albert Camus’ novel, The Plague, Dr. Rieux reveals why he chose to tell the tale of that catastrophic plague. He reports of the catastrophe in all its gory details so as to bear witness to the plague and not be among the indifferently silent. He narrates the story of the victims of the plague in order to commemorate them. He realizes that although every plague is bound to subside some day, this is far from an ultimate victory. Narrating the account of the plague can only demonstrate what the victims had had to suffer, and to indicate that if humans desire deservedly humane lives, they ought to exert themselves, despite all human frailty, and to persist in their rejection of tyranny and violence. Innocent citizens who rejoice in their freedom from the plague, may not realize how resilient the Yersinia pestis is, and how it lives on for years in the attic, in cracks of old furniture, in the fold of bed-sheets and handkerchiefs, in old trunks and inside molded books, only to reawaken one day and send rodents to infest and devour teeming towns again.

I am with you here today in order to bear witness on behalf of the fallen victims of the plague of violence. I am with you not to be with the indifferently silent in the face of violence and terror. I am your living testimony to the fact that the plague of violence continues to infest minds and thoughts. It has sent rodents on a rampage in one corner of the globe today, only to dispatch them to another corner before long. We should be vigilant and look out for the hatching of this resilient plague. It recognizes no boundaries. One day, incarnated as Stalin, it ran over the vast territories of Russia, one day as Hitler it tormented the people of Germany, the Jews and other people of the world. One day as Mussolini it wreaked devastation on the beautiful landscape of Italy, and another day as Bin Laden it wrought havoc in the United States. Where in the world can we locate a corner that has never seen the ugly incarnation of the calamity of violence? The escalating wave of militarism, war-mongering, and violent clashes along ethnic and sectarian lines in the Middle East today, bode evil and warn us of the imminent breakout of a horrendous pandemic.

Where I come from, violence is perpetrated in the name of religion, and poses itself as sacred, fully justified and beyond restriction by any laws. The world may have once believed that the time of such violence had long passed. However, we have come to the awakening that it has continued to live on in moth-eaten books and cobwebbed minds. We have seen its face.

I am with you here today so that we can remember together the fate of all those who fell victim to this plague. We shall not forget their fate, because beyond and above nationality, creed, race, gender, and other such secondary features, what can best unify human beings, is the realization of their shared afflictions and the shared ideal of bringing about and living in a better world where everyone may live free and good lives. We all wish for a better world from which aggression and violence have vanished, and we must act against the human-made catastrophe of violence and terror just as we act against natural disasters. Two years ago we saw the calamity wrought by the Tsunami and all the pain and grief that it caused. Nevertheless, the unanimous reaction of the people of the world, and the international aid effort, did engender a hopeful spark that shed light on the power of the humans coming together for a good cause. Humans today, as ever else in history, face the threat of the rising Tsunami of violence which may devour us irrespective of all assumedly secure boundaries. Wasn’t September the 11th a massive Tsunami of violence on US soil? In the battle against forces of terror, in all its variegated forms, we have no other way but to come together in solidarity as humans, and to remember, and be mindful of our responsibility to attend to the needs of others, as well as to recognize the right for all people to express their grievances.

I am here today to express my gratitude toward all those humans who refuse to remain indifferently silent when faced with grievances imposed on their fellow human beings in every corner of the globe. I aim to continue this tradition of remembrance, knowing that this tradition binds human beings together like no other bind: especially those among us who strive for making the world a better place, who stay vigilant of the lurking plague of violence, and who realize that as human beings we all share in the same fate.

Akbar Ganji
Washington, DC July 17th 2006