Saturday, July 15, 2006

Akbar Ganji: 'The regime must change'

Bravo Akbar Ganji!

Newsweek-Akbar Ganji is the most vocal voice against the government in Iran. A former revolutionary guard turned reformist journalist, he was jailed for six years for revealing that Iran’s ministry of intelligence played a role in the killings of up to 70 intellectuals during the 1990s. After his release from prison last March, Ganji began a tour of Europe to meet Western intellectuals as well as Iranians in exile.

On Saturday, Ganji began a U.S. visit. During his trip, world leaders including French president Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush have requested meetings. Ganji refused, calling himself “only a journalist.” But in an interview with NEWSWEEK, in which he discussed Iran’s confrontation with the West over its nuclear program, he said he could change his stand on political meetings. Ganji and his acolytes in 25 cities around the world have begun a hunger strike to try to force the release the political prisoners in Iran. Ganji himself says he will lead the protests in front of United Nations headquarters in New York. NEWSWEEK’s Maziar Bahari met Ganji in London on Friday.

You were recently released from prison and plan to go back to Iran in a few weeks time. What do you think will happen to you?
I think they will arrest me as soon as I arrive in the airport and put me in jail

Yet still you want to go back?
Yeah. It’s the Iranian government’s dream to keep me abroad. If it were up to them they would keep me in jail. But they were worried about more international condemnation after illegally holding me for six years. When I look at the Islamic republic and its constitution I see that there is no possibility that this system can become a democratic one which respects human rights. I, and people like me, are trying to change the system into a democratic means.

Mainly through civil disobedience. Meaning breaking unjust and inhumane laws. The regime uses these laws to contain our movement. If you’re sentenced then you can be denied work as a journalist for the rest of your life. We say that this kind of laws are unjust and have to change.