In Box

Epiphanies: Akbar Ganji

A former tenant of Tehran's infamous Evin prison and award-winning investigative journalist offers his advice to those who carry on the fight.

Illustration by Joseph Ciardiello for FP
Illustration by Joseph Ciardiello for FP

 

At the time of the revolution, I was a 19-year-old kid. I lived in one of the most poverty-stricken parts of Tehran and was active in the anti-shah resistance. I was captured by the illusion that we could create a new history and change the course of humanity. I now know that position is completely unsound. We Iranians had to pay a huge price to learn this truth.

[During the 1997 presidential election], I took advantage of a precious opportunity to expose the assassination of political dissidents and minorities. It was dangerous, but I was able to force the regime to confess and accept responsibility. I demonstrated that dozens of people were assassinated and that the orders had come from the supreme leader and a few other senior leaders. Exposing these killings has meant that such crimes have not -- until now -- been repeated.

 

At the time of the revolution, I was a 19-year-old kid. I lived in one of the most poverty-stricken parts of Tehran and was active in the anti-shah resistance. I was captured by the illusion that we could create a new history and change the course of humanity. I now know that position is completely unsound. We Iranians had to pay a huge price to learn this truth.

[During the 1997 presidential election], I took advantage of a precious opportunity to expose the assassination of political dissidents and minorities. It was dangerous, but I was able to force the regime to confess and accept responsibility. I demonstrated that dozens of people were assassinated and that the orders had come from the supreme leader and a few other senior leaders. Exposing these killings has meant that such crimes have not — until now — been repeated.

Paying a price can be a two-way street. When the Iranian regime put me in jail, I thought they should also pay a price. I wrote many letters and articles from my prison cell, and I managed to smuggle them out and have them widely circulated.

I spent time in the solitary-confinement cells of the Department of Prisons, the Intelligence Ministry, and the Revolutionary Guards. The worst of all was, and still is, the Revolutionary Guards. They use any tool — even toilets, showers, water, and tea — to put stress and pressure on a prisoner in order to bring him or her to the breaking point.

[Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei, to stay in power, has no choice but to convert the monarchical order into a fascist regime. So the Iranian [dissident movement] must organize, launch social mobilization, and establish its leadership to obtain democracy through nonviolent resistance.

Pro-democracy Iranians are deeply opposed to American interference in the internal affairs of Iran. Iran’s transition toward democracy is the task of the Iranians, not foreign governments. But people of all countries and civil organizations must give active moral support to the people of Iran. Human rights are a global matter.

<p> Akbar Ganji is an Iranian investigative journalist and dissident who spent over six years in prison in Iran. He has received numerous awards for his work. </p> <p> This article was translated by Ali N. Babaei. </p>

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration of a captain's hat with a 1980s era Pepsi logo and USSR and U.S. flag pins.

The Doomed Voyage of Pepsi’s Soviet Navy

A three-decade dream of communist markets ended in the scrapyard.

Demonstrators with CASA in Action and Service Employees International Union 32BJ march against the Trump administration’s immigration policies in Washington on May 1, 2017.

Unionization Can End America’s Supply Chain Crisis

Allowing workers to organize would protect and empower undocumented immigrants critical to the U.S. economy.

The downtown district of Wilmington, Delaware, is seen on Aug. 19, 2016.

How Delaware Became the World’s Biggest Offshore Haven

Kleptocrats, criminals, and con artists have all parked their illicit gains in the state.