Saturday, March 18, 2006

What does Ganji's release mean? - Not Much

Unlike other countries around the world, Iranians have historically looked to, and allowed themselves to be lead by, one person in the political realm. This reliance on high-profile people who can bring "quick fixes" has generally had terrible results. With the exception of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian people's reliance on the "one-person fix" has brought the likes of Khomeini and even to some extent the deposed Shah Reza Pahlavi. My conversation with a compatriot a few days ago characterizes this. As we were chatting over the phone, our conversation turned to the attitudes of Iranians towards politics and their unfortunate habits of being followers rather then leaders. Specifically, our conversation turned to Dr. Mossadegh and how the people had been in the streets chanting "Ya Mossadegh" in unison one day and then chanting Shah Reza Pahlavi's name the very next day that he gained power.

This unfortunate attribute has not dimished. The two-year term of Khatami that slowed the regime's fall from power was brought about because the people of Iran were overwhelmingly duped into believing that Khatami, a person who believed in the overall appropriateness of an Islamic Republic in Iran, would be able to "reform" it into something else. Khatami's term in office also brought the likes of Ms. Shirin Ebadi whose high-profile Nobel Prize award lead Iranians, once again, to flock to someone - anyone - who could bring the quick fix. As all of you know, the reliance on Khatami and Ebadi didn't go exactly as planned. Khatami proved that he was simply a good actor and Ebadi showed her ability to denounce human rights abuses on the one hand and support the Islamic Republic in Iran on the other.

With the recent release of Ganji from prison, the question that is undeniably being asked by many Iranians is "what happens now?" There are those of us who are once again going to flock to Mr. Ganji in the hopes that he will be able to say a couple magic words that will have the people all over Iran rise up and burn the Mullahs to dust. Then there are those of us who know better. There is no doubt that Mr. Ganji has suffered in Jail. However, there are thousands of people who have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of the Islamic Republic. Arguably, the jail term of Mr. Ganji has done more harm then good to the dissident movement in Iran because his story has been used to overshadow serious abuses of other jailed dissidents being held in Evin Prison.

There is no doubt that Mr. Ganji was once a great supporter of the same people who jailed him. There is also no doubt that he has suffered at the hands of those same people that he once supported. The question that the people of Iran need to ask themselves is whether this man - just one man - can give the Iranians what they want. Although Mr. Ganji has become very popular in his harsh citicisms of the Regime, I have not heard Mr. Ganji reject the Islamic Republic in Iran as a proper form of government. Thus, is Mr. Ganji like Khatami who believes in the overall goodness of an Islamic system, or is he like the other jailed dissidents who are working for regime change? Is Mr. Ganji willing to place his life on the line and probably die in order to effect regime change? These questions need to be asked and answered by him. The question is not whether he suffered in jail or whether he believes that the actions taken by the regime are right and just. What needs to be asked and subsequently answered by Mr. Ganji is: DO YOU SUPPORT THE REGIME?

What Iranians need to learn is that there can never be one person who will bring about the changes people are looking for. Iran is a country of nearly seventy-million people and there are probably seventy-million different ideas on how the country should be run and what it should look like. Iranians need to stop putting all their eggs in one basket and start becomming their own leaders. As people in Western countries will tell you, one needs to stand up and fight for his/her individual rights because nobody will ever do it for you. I don't know if the Iranian people as a whole have learned that yet. Until they do, people like Khatami, Ebadi, and Ganji will come and go and the end result will be that nothing will ever change.

Marg Bar Jumhurieh Eslami
Long Live Iran


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