Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ganji: There Is No Consensus on the Nuclear Issue in Iran

Maryam Kashani, Rooz Online:
The famed Iranian imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji declared in Paris that the Islamic Republic of Iran was a violator of human rights. On the nuclear issue he said,There is absolutely no consensus on the nuclear issue in Iran and everything that is attributed to be ‘national’ in this regard is merely ideological propaganda.”

Speaking to reporters in the presence of the head of the Society for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran (Jame-e Defa az Hogooge Bashar Dar Iran) Abdol Karim Lahiji, the founder and secretary general of Reporters Without Borders Robert Menart, and judge and UN expert for human rights Louis Joinet, Ganji said Iran’s “laws explicitly violate human rights.”

According to para 2 of article 295 of Iran’s Islamic Punitive (criminal) Code, any citizen who determines another individual to be MahdoorAl-dam (i.e. left or rescinded from a religion), he has a duty to kill him,” Ganji said and continued: “In other words if a person can prove in court that he has killed a person because the victim had no religion, then the court can determine him to be innocent and free him.” “In today’s world there is even a debate about the death penalty of citizens. But even if we assume there is a consensus on this, it is the judgment of a court with the presence of a qualified jury that determines this.” READ MORE

In his response to questions from the audience, Ganji talked about the specific Iranian laws and regulations that ban people from writing for life. The laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran say that anybody who engages in propaganda against the state is punishable for one month up to a year. During the last eight years, most journalists in Iran have been accused of this. According to paragraph 8 of article 6 of the current Press Law, any journalist who is judged to have engaged in propaganda against the regime is banned from journalism for the rest of his life,” Ganji said, adding, “I think the Islamic Republic of Iran is the only country in the world that still has laws banning journalists from writing.”

When asked about the reasons why the regime allowed him to travel outside the country, Ganji explained as follows: “I was invited to attend a meeting of 1,700 international news men. If the Islamic Republic tried to prevent me from going to this event, it would be pinning itself against the whole world media, which is not something the regime can accomplish. In today’s world, power rests with the media.” And conveying the possible consequences of his talk outside Iran, Ganji said,What is important regarding my trip is not that I could leave Iran, but my return back there.”

IN explaining the current conditions in Iran Ganji described said there was no differentiation between civil society and the government, something that exists in all modern governments today. In a totalitarian state, the state views any act of an individual to be political in nature. For example, the clothing that a person wears in a modern state is a private affair whereas in the Islamic Republic all women are forced to wear the hijab (Islamic attire). When women push their headscarf back an inch or two, this is interpreted to be a political act.”

Ganji explained his own status after years in prison to be, “a journalist who likes to defend the rights of citizens and protest human rights violations.” I am against revolution and am proud of it,” he continued. “Democracy cannot be created through revolutions. The most important dichotomy that I make for a society is between those who support democracy and human rights, and those who oppose it,” he explained.

Talking about the conditions prevalent in Iran today, Ganji said that there existed a very powerful democracy movement in the country.For the first time in history Iran’s intellectuals have a consensus in their desire and drive for democracy. But the movement has a weakness right now: it has no organization or structure. The groups that exist in this movement, whether inside or outside Iran, are very varied, which is the reason why it lacks a leadership. When Poland was struggling for democracy, they had one leader: Lech Walesa. The Czechs had the Vaclav Havel. I hope we too will solve this problem democratically,” he said.

I see it as my duty to defend the powerful women’s movement in Iran,” Ganji said, mentioning the recent arrest of Mousavi Khoeini, expressing his hope that Khoeini along with Ramin Jahanbegloo and other political prisoners and journalists would be freed soon.

When asked about former president Mohammad Khatami and the reformers, Ganji said, “Khatami was a reformer who could not provide what he promised. So there emerged those who continued to be hopeful of reformers, while others lost their faith in them.”

Ganji also spoke of the nuclear issue and how it is perceived in Iran. There is no consensus on the nuclear issue in Iran. What you hear is mere propaganda. All 18 groups comprising the reformers oppose the government position on this. All the reformers outside the regime oppose the government’s policy in this regard. All intellectuals and thinkers who are not reformers too oppose the government on the nuclear issue. Hashemi on this. In the presence of the leader, he categorically said at a National Security Council meeting that enrichment had to stop. And because he seriously is concerned about Iran, he has requested that his words be recorded in history. But Rafsanjani definitely opposes the current government’s position even among conservatists in Iran there are differences of opinion on the issue, with some believing that enrichment should be suspended for a few years. In contrast to all of the above, there is a small minority within the regime that pursues the current policy, and it is led by the leader. In fact the words of the president and the military that you hear in this regard are really the words of the leader of the regime. He emphatically pushes for the continuation of the current policy,” Ganji said.

How can you claim the nuclear policy to be nationally supported when the programs were hidden from the public for 15 years?” Ganji questioned Iranian officials.

Ganji concluded his remarks by saying that instead of promoting or repeating destructive ideas and solutions, everybody should be promoting disarmament. “We do not desire the destruction of our country, even though we oppose the Islamic Republic of Iran. We should remember that neither the powerful Soviet military nor nuclear bombs could prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nuclear weapons will not protect us, but they will certainly unite the whole world against us; a consensus that did not exist in the case of Iraq.

Finally, Ganji welcomed the new policy of the US to directly participate in talks with Iran. “These talks must be open and transparent, and they should not weaken freedom or human rights in Iran,” he cautioned.

During this meeting, Robert Menart spoke of violations of the rights of journalists in Iran while Louis Joinet who had met Ganji two years earlier in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, said, “When I spoke with Ganji for 2 hours in Evin, I concluded that he was not even a political prisoner, but a prisoner of ideology, which I explained to Iranian officials.”

Lahiji was the final speaker who spoke about freedom of thought. In the initial years of the revolution Ganji and I belonged to opposing fronts. Today, I would like to welcome him to the movement supporting human rights,” he said.