Friday, September 22, 2006

A Debate: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vs. Akbar Ganji

Shaheen Fatemi, Iran va Jahan:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to challenge President Bush to a face-to-face debate. For good reasons this challenge is being ignored. Besides being impertinent and irrelevant, it seems obvious that it is a cheap publicity shot. Debates make sense when specific issues need to be clarified and specific positions have to be stated by rivals in an election or a referendum for the benefit of the voters. President of the United States has no reason to debate Mr. Ahmadinejad and he never will.

On the other hand, there is another Iranian in the United States at this very time when Mr. Ahmadinejad is enjoying his own showmanship. This other Iranian has a story to tell which is far more interesting and revealing than the poisonous and racist diatribes of the so-called Iranian leader. This other man is an Iranian dissident, a journalist who has spent many years in jail and has suffered humiliation and torture because he happens to disagree with the regime. This man’s name is Akbar Ganji.

Mr. Ganji’s views concerning Iran and its government are very different from those of the man who was allowed to address the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 22, 2006 in the name of the Iranian people. In an article in today’s issue of the Washington Post Mr. Ganji bravely proclaims: We want the world to know that our rulers do not represent the Iranian people and that their religion is not the religion of the entire nation...” He adds:We believe the government of Tehran is seeking a secret deal with the United States. It is willing to make any concession, provided that the United States promises to remain silent about the regime’s repressive measures at home.”

If Mr. Ahmadinejad has any courage or conviction, now is the time to step forward and debate this prominent Iranian dissident while both of them are in the United States, in a free country, where Mr. Ganji will not be thrown to jail once again for anther decade for having dared to contradict the Iranian dictator. Such a debate can never take place in Iran because as an Iranian humorist has aptly stated in that country there is neither freedom of speech nor freedom after the speech.
But oddly, Ganji also said in the same letter to the Washington Post:
"It is both possible and desirable to solve the problems between the United States and Iran through direct talks."
I don't know who you reconcile the two statements. We have supported Ganji's release from prison but find his endosement of talks with the illegitmate oppressors of the Iranian people very disturbing since direct talks with the Islamic Republic assumes that it is the legitimate representatives of the Iranian people which is the very reason no other US administration has been willing to enter into such negotitations in the past. If the US wants the continue to confuse the Iranian people about our support for them we should follow Ganji's advice.