Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Akbar Ganji Calls for Nationwide Protest to Human Rights ViolationsAkbar Ganji Calls for Nationwide Protest to Human Rights Violations
In Interview with Rooz - 2007.07.17
We have conducted an exclusive interview with celebrated Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji as more and more students and activists find themselves behind bars.
Rooz (R): Why does the government put so much pressure on students, women and labor activists?
Akbar Ganji (AG): The Islamic Republic is a regime that is seriously frightened by the prospect of society’s empowerment. An authoritarian regime can survive only when society is weak. The Islamic Republic knows well that an empowered society paves the way for democracy, while a weak society corresponds to authoritarianism and dictatorship. This is why the regime has focused its energy on sabotaging society’s empowerment.
(R): What can be done in such circumstances?
(AG): A strange confusion has afflicted us all. We either try to acquire power through revolution and armed struggle, or we do nothing other than participating in elections. In either case we are “Leninists,” meaning that we summarize change in taking over power. In reality, however, the only right way of transitioning to democracy is through organizing society: to organize diverse desires and interests, as well as identities – all of these have to be organized to empower society. Democracy won’t come until society is empowered. This is why in today’s Iran any project that supports democracy must promote the organization of diverse social interests and desires. The people who have been arrested in Iran today are the voices of democracy and liberty in Iran. Unfortunately, not only do we not do anything for democracy and liberty in Iran, but we also fail to support those who do fight and ignore their sacrifices.
(R): You mean both inside and outside Iran?
(AG): These are two different discussions. The opposition outside Iran operates several good websites that disseminate information about what is really going on inside the country. Besides that, it has thus far failed to fulfill other missions that is expected from a genuine opposition. You don’t have an opposition just because you release statements. Group work requires structural organization. If opposition groups outside Iran are not able to publish a newspaper, if they are not able to manage a satellite television network, if they are not able to organize gatherings to protest the regime’s oppression, no one will take the idea of a hegemony and united opposition seriously. Millions of Iranians who reside outside the country can do a great deal to further the cause of democracy in Iran. We are all inexcusably passive. Anyone who stays silent in face of human rights violations has morally participated in those violations. Young students like Abdollah Momeni, who fight day and night for liberty and only get prison sentences in return, must make us wonder. No one asks what the millions of Iranians who live outside Iran and are rich and educated have done for their country’s transition to democracy. If someone tells them that with your efforts you have demonstrated that you are no more qualified than Ahmadinejad, has he lied? Must we be mad? We must not make legends out of people – especially out of a people who have only produced dictatorships in their long history. Any country’s political system fits the level of its people. If we claim that a Sultanist regime is not appropriate for us – which it is not – we must show that in action.