Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Hunger Strike

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr Ganji has become the face of a disunited Iran, the Iran of murderous government officials and of a public discord with Iran’s state of politics. He demands in this instance the release of political prisoners in Iran but more fundamentally advocates significant changes to the structure of Iranian government starting with the elimination of the Velayate Faghih so as to create a more open political atmosphere in which the will of the majority will not be sidestepped by a few members of the clergy at the very top of Iran’s power structure. These ideas are predicated on an assumption of Iranian politics as existing in a vacuum, invulnerable to the kind of subversion Iran has experienced in the past from external sources. The West has embraced Mr Ganji though it seems he has not yet embraced the West. At least not overtly. Ganji has turned down invitations to meet with George Bush and Jacque Chirac, choosing instead to take his case to the UN. No doubt, Western leaders see in Mr Ganji a potential Soljenitsin. Such personalities have always offered much savings in the way of subverting an opponent. The cost of deifying such individuals in the eyes of their fellow citizens is by far less than the cost of a military invasion or a coup d’etat. Mr Ganji therefore is walking on thin ice as he attempts however justifiably to rattle Iran’s political regime toward his popular aims. The liberties he wishes for Iranians were the advent of a very limited period in Western democracies. They no longer exist as can be readily evidenced by the state of politics in the United States. We see today that in Western democracies in general there is a scathing gap between the electorate and the elected. How does Iran hope to avoid this fate and how will Iran prevent outsiders from subverting her politics so as to gain control of her resources?