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PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2005 6:17 pm    Post subject: GANJI'S VICTORY - ELI LAKE, NY SUN Reply with quote

Iran Dissident Accedes to Family's Pleas, Breaks Hunger Strike
8/23/2005 http://www.nysun.com

BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
August 23, 2005

WASHINGTON - Akbar Ganji has broken his hunger strike following pleas from his family, according to his wife, who over the weekend was allowed to see the jailed Iranian journalist for the first time in nearly a month.

A spokesman for the student organization that has supported Mr. Ganji's campaign, Tahkim Vahdat, told The New York Sun yesterday that Iran's prodemocracy activists were pleased Mr. Ganji had given up his protest to save his life.

"We are very happy that Akbar Ganji has broken his hunger strike because he is a symbol of our democracy movement in Iran against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Republic," Akbar Atri said in an interview from his home in Connecticut.

"He has brought the issue of human rights and a nonviolent movement to the attention of the Iranian people and the world," Mr. Atri told the Sun.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Massoumeh Shafieh said Mr. Ganji was in fair condition and confirmed earlier reports from regime sources that her husband had ended the hunger strike that he began June 11, when he was re-arrested for urging Iranians to boycott June's presidential election. He had previously served prison time for accusing regime leaders of plotting a string of murders against Iranian intellectuals and dissidents. According to the BBC, Ms. Shafieh said her husband was eating soup and fruit compote.

Earlier this month, Iranian authorities raided the Ganji family home. Plainclothes police officers tied Ms. Shafieh to a bedpost and threatened her. Afterward, in an interview with the American-funded Radio Farda, Ms. Shafieh begged her husband to end his hunger strike so that he could be a father to their children.

Until recently, it would have been unheard of for someone affiliated with Tahkim Vahdat, which played a major role in organizing before the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought the current regime to power, to state plainly that the supreme leader of Iran must step down. But after Mr. Ganji's public letters calling for Ayatollah Khamenei to go, using phrasing Ayatollah Khomeinei used to great effect against the shah, the student movement has now crossed with Mr. Ganji over from reform to open opposition.

Mr. Atri stressed that Mr. Ganji should not be viewed as a loser in a test of wills against the supreme leader. Since beginning his hunger strike, Mr. Ganji has demanded his unconditional release. Yesterday he ended his self-imposed starvation with a little more than five months of his sentence remaining.

Mr. Atri said Mr. Ganji deserves commendation because he never apologized for his alleged crimes or his recent statements in open letters, despite tremendous pressure from inside Milad Hospital, where he was rushed last month from Evin Prison when his health started to fail.

"People who say that Khamenei won and Ganji lost cannot even see one foot in front of themselves," Mr. Atri said yesterday. "They don't have a good understanding of the big picture, the movement, and it shows the lack of appreciation for what Ganji has done, and the magnitude of his achievements. He has demonstrated and created an opposition to Khamenei and the Islamic Republic, and he has drawn a clear and precise line between democracy and the Islamic republic and he is asking Iranians, 'What side are you on?' With the help of the Iranian student movement, he has been able to get the attention of the world on human rights and democracy and the Iranian people's dissatisfaction with the current president and his Cabinet."

Mr. Ganji was originally arrested in 2000 for attending a reformist conference in Berlin and publishing a book and articles alleging that regime leaders helped plot the murders of intellectuals in the late 1990s. In May he was given medical leave from Evin Prison to seek treatment for his asthma. He gave an interview to Rooz Online while he was out of jail calling on the supreme leader to run for office and urging his countrymen to boycott June's election, which he saw as meaningless and which brought President Ahmadinejad into office earlier this month. When Mr.Ganji was re-arrested on June 11, he began his hunger strike and demanded his unconditional release from prison.

His case has attracted international attention. President Bush was the first world leader to call for his release from prison. Europeans soon followed as did Nobel Prize winners and a number of former dissidents, including Natan Sharansky and Vaclav Havel. U.N. Secretary-General Annan called for Mr. Ganji's release in a letter made public on Friday. When first asked about Mr. Ganji by the Sun, Mr. Annan said he was unaware of the writer's case.

Mr. Atri said yesterday that as a figure fighting for democracy in Iran, Mr. Ganji was significant because he was "able to change the dynamic of the discussion on the international stage. For this summer, the world talked to Iran about something other than nuclear energy. Human rights, political prisoners, terrorism, support for democracy should be the new demands and issues for the West and the international community."
The Sun Is Rising In The West!Soon It Will Shine on All of Iran!
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