Starting tomorrow July 14 there will be a 3 day worldwide hunger strike to protest the Islamic Republic’s crackdowns against Iranians who insist on their human rights. The hunger strike has been organized around the feisty investigative journalist Akbar Ganji who nearly died last year after a prison hunger strike lasting several weeks.
A hunger strike is a powerful political tool. The tactic was used by the pre-Christian Irish as an effective way of demanding justice. There would be tremendous loss of prestige and therefore power for a lord who allowed a plaintiff to die of hunger at his gate. Ghandi used the tactic against the British, winning independence for India, and the IRA used it effectively to win sympathy for its cause. Ironically Bobby Sands street in Iran is named after an IRA activist who died during a hunger strike in a British prison.
We feel hunger as simple organisms in need of fuel. But in resisting hunger we become aware of our own complexity as humans. When other people are fasting with us, empathy and solidarity hugely expand this awareness so that the metaphoric hunger for freedom becomes as powerful as the physical craving for life sustaining food. Akbar Ganji understands this better than most, which is why he has called for this particular way of protesting.
Ganji gained notoriety during the relatively liberal Presidency of Khatami when he was allowed to publicly criticize Khatami’s political enemies. The journalist went for the jugular, tracking the murderers of several of Iran’s influential intellectuals. A few of the killers were tried and executed, but Ganji, never got his chance to fully connect the murders to the ruling Islamic elite. He was sentenced to Jail.
A former member of the Revolutionary Guard Ganji had been assigned to “Doctrine and Politics.” His job as an intellectual was to encourage revolutionary values in Iranians. In a way this is still his job. Disillusioned by the Islamic regime’s stewardship of the Iranian revolution, Ganji has been calling for a more democratic, more tolerant and less misogynistic rule in Iran. He believes religion and state should be separated and has asked the all powerful Supreme Leader to step down.
With his past in the Revolutionary Guard it is difficult to embrace Ganji politically, but he has shown the courage of his faith and he has helped bring murderers to justice. In a democratic Iran he would make a worthy opposition. Meanwhile I stand with him in this hunger strike .
Here’s some where-and-when info on this worldwide protest.