• 12 August 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions

Iranian human rights and democracy activist Akbar Ganji went on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman:

ANJALI KAMAT: Let’s bring this back to the present, Akbar Ganji. What are you calling for? You, along with several other Iranian intellectuals, have sent a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. You’re very clear in the letter that this is not a call for economic sanctions. This is something that some right-wing politicians in the US continue to call for. It’s also not a call for military intervention. But what are you calling for?

AKBAR GANJI: [translated] I have repeated this several times, and a large number of Iranian intellectuals concur on this, that we disagree with military action. We also oppose economic sanctions. Economic sanctions did not weaken Saddam; they weakened the Iraqi people.

We have to two major requests. In the hunger strike that we held, our request was for the Secretary-General of the UN to send an envoy to Iran to visit prisons and to meet with prisoners and to ask for the release of all political—prisoners of conscience.

The new campaign that we have launched is against crimes against to humanity. The International Criminal Court considers crimes against humanity. And it is our belief and our suggestion that the leaders of the Islamic Republic have perpetrated crimes against humanity.

What we are suggesting to the West and to the United Nations is that if you launch an attack on Iran and if you enforce military sanctions, this will destroy the Iranian people. Why would you punish the Iranian people? You should not punish the Iranian people; punish the Iranian regime, rather. Whoever has taken part in oppressing and suppressing the Iranian people, including and especially Ali Khamenei, should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

update:Translation of Ganji’s letter to UN Secretary General:

Translated from BBC Persian:

In an open letter to The United Secretary-General, Akbar Ganji, Human Rights activist and Iranian Journalist asked Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday, August 12, to pay more attention to the world-wide Iranian protests, and take initiatives to address Iranian rights and democratic demands.   In this letter which is signed by 79 academic scholars in the US, election in Iran is represented as not to be “free,” “competitive,” and “fair. Thus, it will never truly transfer the power within political structures in Iran. In his letter, Ganji suggests six options to the UN Secretary-General how to restore Iranian’s rights immediately.

1- To establish a special international probe committee to investigate the election’s process in Iran, as well as counting votes, and possible irregularities or fraud within it

2- To  put pressure on the Iranian government to cancel 12 June election’s result and call for a free,  competitive, and fair reelection under the direct UN’s supervision

3- To put pressure on the Iranian government to release all post-election’s prisoners

4- To put pressure on the Iranian government to lift the ban on opposition media, and to recognize people’s rights for free speech and non-violent protest against the election results

5- To put pressure on the Iranian government to stop any violence and suppression against people

6- To not recognize the “coup d’état” government of Ahmadinejad, and isolate it by all states and international organizations.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    19 Responses to “Ganji: Opposition Does Not Support Economic Sanctions (UPDATED)”

  1. Arash Irandoost says:

    Mr. Ganji does not represent the people of Iran. He committed crimes while he was one the top officials of the Islamic Republic.

    People of Iran have been living in miserable conditions under the mullahs. More than 50% of the Iranians live below poverty, in a country of 70 million that derives 80 Billion in oil exports annually.

    The fact is that Mr. Ganji is very afraid that his crimes will be exposed if the Islamic regime is replaced with a democratic one.

    I am not clear why a Gas Import Sanction would hurt the Iranians. Aren’t the Basij militia who fill up their motor cycles and cars with gasoline and attack and kill innocent protesters?

  2. Mr. Akbar Ganji:

    When you were supposedly in the dungeons of the Islamic Republic of Iran on a hunger strike I told my father I truly believed this was an act and a ploy by the regime. My father Dr. Manouchehr Ganji , a Human Rights Activist who is truly after the rights of not only the people of our homeland and protecting their rights but the rights of all individuals, told me not to be such a pessimist and give you the benefit of a doubt that maybe you have finally realized your mistake by being a part of the Islamic Republic and had decided to stand with the people of Iran.

    But shortly after you came out of Iran (with your family still in Iran) it became apparent to all of us that you are a branch of the regime’s apologists.

    You say you are after democracy…, what kind of democracy when you can’t even sit and talk with your compatriots such as myself who has a different ideology than you. Do you realize that the Monarchists fought for your rights when you were supposedly in jail and on a hunger strike. Do you know how many letters were sent to the UN, to Amnesty International to the Human Rights Watch by monarchists on your behalf??? Did you once appreciate all those efforts when you came out?

    What kind of a activist are you when you can’t sit with your own brothers and sisters who don’t share your views?!

    Mr Ganji, when so many patriotic Ganji’s such as my father Dr. Manouchehr Ganji, My brother Darab Ganji, my cousins Shahrokh Ganji, Dr. Saeed Ganji, Soheila Ganji are fighting for regime change and a free, democratic, secular Iran it is a disgrace for us to have someone like you (who thank god are not related to us) share our name.

    I think I can speak on behalf of all the above Ganji(s) to tell you “any one who stands against our history and our “SHIRO KHORSHID” flag is a disgrace to our name’. We denounce your actions and ask everyone to please make sure and mention “AKBAR” before this man’s name when you write about him so people don’t get him confused with the patriotic Ganjis.

    Mr. Ganji the people of Iran are watching and will never forget and forgive you for all you could have done to be their voice and didn’t.

    Shame on you.

    Roxanne Ganji

  3. parvin irandoost says:

    The majority of Iranians want a democratic secular system of government. Unlike Mr. Ganji and his friends in high places, I, as an ordinary Iranian, believe the campaign of ‘crimes against humanity’ though admirable but not practical. The world has to punish the Islamic Republic by implementing serious economic sanctions on things that would hurt the government more than the people such as gas and refined fuel. Unlike Mr. Ganji, WE WANT REGIME CHANGE. This regime CAN NOT BE REFORMED.

  4. ali kimiai says:

    Mr. Ganji, a former militia of Islamic Republic with many blood on his hnads, does not represent Iraninas and he is in favor the current regime. He has been conducting seminars and interviews ofr past three years outside of Iran.
    You may want to ask him where he gets all these financial support to conduct all these activities.
    He stand in front of the United Nation (At lease 100,000 dollars were spent on that episode) and talks abut the Democracy and at the same time he insults the supporters of Monarchy and tell people to not bring the Flags and posters of their choice.
    We know of his past, his present and he does not have a place in the future of a free Iran.

  5. parvin irandoost says:

    If the leaders of the reformist movement of Iran, including Mr. Rafaanjani and even Mr. Ganji, decide to stand on the side of the Iranian people NOW, we will welcome them with open arms. There is still time for them to do the right thing. Of course, they would have to stand trial for the crimes they have possibly committed but the people of Iran may decide to forgive them at the end becuase they chose to do the right thing at some point in their life. But please stop fooling us. CHOOSE TO DO THE RIGHT THING, BE ON THE SIDE OF HUMANITY.

  6. Yari National Group says:

    Mr. Asghar Ganji is an intellectual?

    You must be joking! This man is a beggar of sympathy from unsuspecting Iranian people with pure heart. He lies to surf on the wave of other peoples hard work.

    As for his actions, Mr. Ganji is only after changing the current Supreme Leader with his favorite candidate. He is not after regime change.

    As for tricolor of Lion and Sun, the man is so ignorant that he does not know what this flag stands for. He does not realize this flag has nothing to do with Monarchy. This flag is our identity and the love for our nation.

    Overall, Asghar Ganji (We have demoted him from Akbar which means great to Asghar that means little) is not a character worth talking about.

    This ignorant man should attend a higher education institute in order to learn more and understand what it means to be a true patriot. Put aside his prejudice against Jewish people and the nation of Israel.

    Most of all, he should attend night school to learn English. This man can only read the propaganda books published by the Mullah’s of Iran. No wonder he hates our flag and is bias towards Israel and the Jews!

    An opportunist to the max with no intellectual knowledge or understanding of universal brotherhood of men.

    Yari Jan

  7. Pirouz says:

    The problem with the lion and sun flag (even without the crown emblem) is that it is associated with the Pahlavi monarchy, and MEK, both considered enemies of Iran.

    Iranian state TV has had a field day showing clips from post election demonstrations in the US, particularly from LA, which contain images of the lion and sun flag. Such images do great harm to the opposition movement in Iran, as they validate the narrative that the post election protests are a result of foreign interference and exile groups bent on a regime change.

  8. Either you or I must be living in a cave. You are connecting the Iranian Flag to MEK and the Shah? The flag was around much before than MEK and Shah flag has a crown on top of the lion.

    During the Shah’s rule there were only only 762 political prisoners. This regime has killed more than 3000 in a day. I never heard Savak rape any protester, stoned any women, and did public hangings, if they had you would be screeming about it. This regime has, now one of their own ( karrubi) admitting it. An Iranian toman was worth .14 cents now it is 0.001 cent.

    I am not a Shah supporter but having seen his regime and this regime in action I would much prefer his type of dictatorship than to this type of mass brutality and arrogance. Carrying the Lion and Son flag, signifies a couple of things: We are not with Rafasanjani funded so Called GREEN (dollar) Movement. It aslo signifies our disgust for the Hindi Allah insignia on the Iranian flag and our yearn for a secular system. No my friend, if MEK knew that the Lion and Son was an expression of support for the Shah, they have enough brains not to carry it. Likewise with, the Iranian Opposition, if we believed that the flag was an expression of our support for the MEK and the Shah many people would object to it and would not attend the rally. This is the flag of Iran. And you know it, but you are charged with deceiving the Naiive Armerican people, since they do not know any better!

  9. Pirouz says:

    Arash, I’m well aware of the history and symbolism of the lion and sun flag. What I’ve stated is that the lion and sun flag is associated with the Pahlavi monarchy and MEK.

    To make a historical comparison, the swastika is an ancient symbol that means many things to many cultures (including ancient Iran). However, because the swastika was used by the Nazis in the mid-twentieth century, it is now widely associated with the Nazis.

    Iranian demonstrators in the US should realize the great harm they do to the opposition movement in Iran, by invoking the old flag (even without the crown emblem). Flags are powerful symbols and it must be conceded that the old flag is to a greater extent associated with the monarchy, and to a lessor extent MEK. Unfortunately, when this fact is pointed out to certain demonstrators in LA, they usually respond that they do not care or that they are against the regime, which is exactly the same narrative the authorities in Iran are providing to discredit the homegrown opposition movement. In effect, use of the old flag plays right into the hands of the authorities to which these demonstrators are rallying against. Videos of such, broadcast on Iranian TV, are damning to the opposition.

  10. Arash says:

    Our flag is and has been the symbol of our unity and represnt Iran. Green is for prosperity, whits is for purity and peace and Red for for defending the country and war. Even the Islamic Republic kept the flag colors and tweaked it and spoiled it with the Arabic word and Hindi symbol for God, after their deceitful revolution. If it symbloized the Shah and MEK, then why Khomeini kept it? So your argument does not hold water. It actually unites the Iranians inside, because it does away with Arabic word Allah.

  11. parvin irandoost says:

    Pirouz, the pro-democracy movement in Iran is about opposing a regime that has oppressed a nation for that past 30 years. It is about people being fed up with living under a religious dictatorship with backward and certainly unfair laws. Let’s not make it about the flag. But having said that, I believe it is totally wrong for the people whom seem to think they represent the Green Movement of Iran outsidee of the country to tell everyone else what signs, sloagans, and flags to use or not to use. It is this very un-democratic behavior by people like Mr. Ganji that is upsetting everyone else. Mr. Ganji seems to think of himself and some inner circle as the owner of this movement. He is absolutely wrong.

    By the way, the demonstrators in Iran did not have the lion/sun flag and yet many of them got beaten, tortured, raped, and killed. This regime does not need an execuse to harm its own people. I would like to point out the lion/sun flag has become a symbol of opposing the Islamic regime. And opposing the Islamic regime is exactly what people of Iran and especially the protesters are doing. Have you not listened to the sloagans of ‘Down with Dictator’, ‘Down with Islamic Republoic’, ‘Independence, Freedom, and Iranian Republic’? I am not sure why we need to please the very group who have done the most horrific crimes against the nation of Iran for the past 30 years? Unless, we are trying to preserve this very government which I now believe that is exactly what Mr. Ganji is doing having had read all his articles since the election.

  12. Ye Irooni says:

    Its amazing to me how so many of you have flocked to this site and attack Ganji with such vitriol – I thought you all hated NIAC.

    I think Ganji is 100% right about the flag. and that is reflected in EVERY city across the globe where the ‘flaggers’ make up 10% of the protesters, and try to destroy the proceedings in every single city. its truly a shame that so many of you can not get beyond your own selfish ideological blinders (same blinders you have worn for 30 years now) to simply stand behind the people inside Iran who are sweating and bleeding for their basic freedoms.

    You sit here in the comfort of a Democracy, away from Iran for 30 years – and all you can fight about is that the flag represents Iran??? you then curse the “GREEN” movment as a Rafsanjani creation? you people are DELUDED!!!!!!!

    its ok though – your anger stems from the fact that you are in a VERY SMALL minority – and your minority status has been laid bare over the past two months… your intimidation tactics and your divisive behavior have all become clear to the community as a whole… you have no leg to stand on- and its clear to all that the people in Iran reject your ideologies, your tactics, and your prescriptions…

    It really is your own fault that someone like Ganji has MORE legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian expatriate community than you all do. (and yes, I’m lumping the commenters from above together)

    so yell and scream, moan and whine, but just like the ‘Birthers’ and ‘Deathers’ here in the US who have tried to destroy public discourse at the Congressional Town Halls in August – your style and your tactics have backfired and the community at large has rejected your vision for the future of Iran.

    Ganji is no angel, but each paragraph he has written and each sentence he has uttered over the past few months have had more depth, utility, and insight than ALL the effort you all have put forth over the last 30 years.

  13. Arash says:

    Azin has written:

    In order to destroy a people’s identity an occupying force attacks their native culture and heritage. According to Machiavelli, “there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.” In 1979, in its quest to eradicate the Iranian identity, one of Islamic Republic’s first strikes against Iranians was to replace their national flag. Putting aside ancient historical references, Article 5 of the 1907 supplemental laws to the Iranian Constitution made the tri-color flag with the lion/sun emblem the official national flag.

    Unfortunately, many either did not know or have forgotten this important symbol of unity and national identity. They erroneously attribute it to the late Shah’s regime (Pahlavi 1925-1979) even though this flag carries Iranian symbols dating back to the Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 B.C.E.), the first world empire covering approximately 3 million square miles. With the recent and sustained uprisings against the mullahcracy, the importance of a nation’s flag has taken center stage as monarchists, republicans, nationalists and socialists abroad have been fighting over what to display when demonstrating in support of their fellow countrymen demanding a secular democracy.

  14. Arash says:

    Ganji+Mousavi+Trita Parsi+ Rafsanjani+Khamenei+ Kadivar + IRI apologists and leftists = Islamic Republic

  15. Pirouz says:

    Arash, I was referring to the old flag which includes the sun and lion emblem. Yes, the tricolor remains the same (Pan-Iranian colors).

    Parvin, do you think it is wrong to point out to demonstrators outside Iran that to protest with the old flag does great harm to the credibility of the opposition movement in Iran? When such is so obviously the case, the only reason to continue to do so is for selfish, personal reasons.

    In Iran, the sun and lion emblems of the old flag are associated with enemies of Iran. That may be sad, culturally inaccurate and some may wish it weren’t so. But in demonstrating in support of Iran’s opposition movement, nostalgia and sentimentality must be set aside. The fact remains that use of the old flag by demonstrators in the US is used to great effect by state-controlled TV in Iran, to discredit the opposition movement. It plays right into the narrative of foreign powers and exile groups plotting a color revolution.

  16. parvin irandoost says:

    Dear Ye Irooni, my objection to Mr. Ganji’s point of view is about his stand on the issue of his solution for a democratic Iran. He wants the IRI to continue to govern iran. I am against that. I believe most people of Iran are VERY UNHAPPY with this government. And by the way, I and others have every right to express our opinion about what Mr. Ganji has to say as he has chosen to express his views PUBLICALLY. It is OUR RIGHT just like you expressed your view and considered it to be your right to do so.

    And by the way, where did you get the idea that we hate NIAC? I would never use the word ‘hate’ as I consider it a very strong word to use against anyone or anything. But some of us have views against what NIAC is trying to sell TO US officials that they should negotiate with this regime because this regime is liked by its people; THEY COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG!

  17. Yari National Group says:

    Asgar Ganji who?

    You Mean the bossom buddy of Evin Butcher Lajevardi? What does he stand for? Islamic Repulsive of Mullah’s?

    Still calls charlatan Khomenei “Imam Khomenei”! Hstes the national flag of Iran?

    This man is nothing but a charlatan himself. Just like the

  18. Essi55 says:

    Mr. Pirouze,
    What makes you think that majority of Iranian don’t want Monarchy? Have you taken a poll? Or what makes you think people of Iran associate the flag w/ Shah? Have you had factual information? No.
    Now about legality of the flag: Iran’s legal flag is Lion and son. Khomeini decided in his own to remove them and insert his “Sikh” symbol. Yes, “Sikh” an Indian cult sign. No Iranian was aware of it or asked for this Hindi cult sign. If people knew they would have objected w/ their blood. Since there was no democratic (by voting) method to change the flag, we must admit that sheer khorsheed is the legal flag of Iran. It is Ironic for Mr. Ganj’s argument on this matter when in the demonstrators our youths loudly chant “no to kharchang flag”.
    Now that I have cleared that argument let me say:
    Sanction will help remove this Regime. When that taxi driver who’s still feeling can survive under this tyranny, cannot buy gas to make a living, he too will join the movement. Another important point I must note here is this: The Regime, in particular the IRGC controls the economy and all business interactions, domestic and International. Lifting existing sanction will only help these elite groups and make them richer. People will not benefit from removing present sanction. Imposing tougher sanction as hard as it may seem on my good people it would be temporary and a sacrifice we all must make to speed up the toppling of this Regime.
    Mr. Ganji knows this perfectly because his bosses in Iran have fully briefed him on it, and have sent him to west as their messenger during the time that tougher sanctions are in the works, and during the time the Regime desperately trying to hang on to power.
    Mr. Ganji your hand exposed. We will not forget this. It is time to pack and go back to your masters

  19. Another Iranian says:

    I really would like to know why the Iranian people will choose a former rapist and murderer (Akbar Ganji) as their “opposition representative”? Can Mr. Ganji give us some stats on how many Iranians support his views? If voluntary comments to Mr. Ganji’s article are any indication, only one ill-informed commenter, have responded positively to his article. Despite all the rape and torture admitted by the regimes leadership, Mr.Ganji still believes that this regime is reformable. Does Mr. Ganji really believes this? Or is he afraid that if a regime changes were to take place in Iran, his crimes might be exposed and might be tried for committing them.

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Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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