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The US and the Plight of the Iranians

The following is a summary version of the letter sent to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September by the Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji.

OPEN LETTER TO THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL

To His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations:

The people of Iran are experiencing difficult times both internationally and domestically. Internationally, they face the threat of a military attack from the US. Domestically, a despotic state has—through constant and organized repression—imprisoned them in a life-and-death situation.

Far from helping the development of democracy, US policy over the past fifty years has consistently been to the detriment of the advocates of freedom in Iran. The 1953 coup against Mohammad Mossadeq and the unwavering support for the despotic regime of the Shah are just two examples of these flawed policies. More recently the confrontation between various US administrations and the Iranian state over the past three decades has made internal conditions very difficult for the proponents of freedom and human rights in Iran.

Exploiting the danger posed by the US, the Iranian regime has put military-security forces in charge of the government. It has shut down all independent domestic media and is imprisoning human rights activists on the pretext that they are all agents of a foreign enemy. The Bush administration, for its part, has approved a fund for democracy assistance in Iran. That this fund is, in fact, being largely spent on official US institutions and media affiliated with the US government has made it easy for the Iranian authorities to describe the regime’s opponents as mercenaries of the US and to crush them with impunity. At the same time, even speaking about “the possibility” of a military attack on Iran makes things extremely difficult for human rights and pro-democracy activists in Iran. No Iranian wants to see what happened to Iraq or Afghanistan repeated in Iran.

Iran’s dangerous international situation and the consequences of Iran’s dispute with the West have totally deflected the world’s attention and especially the attention of the United Nations from the intolerable conditions that the Iranian regime has created for the Iranian people. The dispute over the enrichment of uranium should not make the world forget that, although the 1979 Revolution of Iran was a popular revolution, it did not lead to the formation of a democratic system that protects human rights. The Islamic Republic is a fundamentalist state that does not afford official recognition to the private sphere. It represses civil society and violates human rights.

Are you aware that in Iran political dissidents, human rights activists, and pro-democracy campaigners are legally deprived of “the right to life”? On the basis of Article 226 of the Islamic Penal Law and Note 2 of Paragraph E of Section B of Article 295 of the same law, any person can unilaterally decide that another human being has forfeited the right to life and kill them in the name of performing one’s religious duty to rid society of vice. Over the past few decades, many dissidents and activists have been killed on the basis of this article and the killers have been acquitted in court. In such circumstances, no dissident or activist has a right to life in Iran, because, on the basis of Islamic jurisprudence and the laws of the Islamic Republic, the definition of those who have forfeited the right to life (mahduroldam) is very broad.

Are you aware that in Iran, many writers are lawfully banned from writing? On the basis of Note 2 of Paragraph 8 of Article 9 of the Press Law, writers who are convicted of “propaganda against the ruling system” are deprived for life of “the right to all press activity.” In recent years, many writers and journalists have been convicted of propaganda against the ruling system. The court’s verdicts make it clear that any criticism of state bodies is deemed to be propaganda against the ruling system.

The people of Iran are experiencing difficult days. They need the moral support of the proponents of freedom throughout the world and effective intervention by the United Nations. We categorically reject a military attack on Iran. At the same time, we ask you and all of the world’s intellectuals and proponents of liberty and democracy to condemn the human rights violations of the Iranian state.

Above all, we hope all of Iran’s political prisoners, who are facing more deplorable conditions with every passing day, will soon be released. The people of Iran are asking themselves whether the UN Security Council is only decisive and effective when it comes to calling for the suspension of the enrichment of uranium, and whether the lives of the Iranian people are unimportant as far as the Security Council is concerned. The people of Iran are entitled to freedom, democracy, and human rights. We Iranians hope that the United Nations and all the forums that defend democracy and human rights will be unflinching in their support for Iran’s quest for freedom and democracy.

Akbar Ganji

Endorsed by:

Jürgen Habermas (J.W. Goethe Universitaet, Frankfurt)

Charles Taylor (McGill University)

Noam Chomsky (MIT)

Ronald Dworkin (New York University)

Robert Bellah (University of California, Berkeley)

Alasdair MacIntyre (University of Notre Dame)

Orhan Pamuk (Recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature)

J.M. Coetzee (Recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature)

Seamus Heaney (Recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature)

Nadine Gordimer (Recipient of 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature)

Mairead Corrigan-Maguire (Recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize)

Umberto Eco (novelist, Italy)

Mario Vargas Llosa (novelist, Peru)

Isabel Allende (novelist, Chile)

Robert Dahl (Yale University)

Michael Walzer (Princeton University)

Seyla Benhabib (Yale University)

Cornel West (Princeton University)

Michael Sandel (Harvard University)

Eric Hobsbawm (Birbeck College, University of London)

Stanley Hoffman (Harvard University)

Nancy Fraser (New School for Social Research)

Philip Pettit (Princeton University)

Slavoj Zizek (University of Ljubljana)

Daniel A. Bell (Tsinghua University)

Nikki Keddie (UCLA)

Marshall Berman (City College of New York)

Hilary Putnam (Harvard University)

Robert Putnam (Harvard University)

Alan Ryan (Oxford University)

Zygmunt Bauman (University of Leeds)

Richard J. Bernstein (New School University)

Nicholas Wolterstorff (Yale University)

Talal Asad (City University of New York Graduate Center)

Joshua Cohen (Stanford University and Boston Review Magazine)

Fred Dallmayr (University of Notre Dame)

Richard Falk (Princeton University)

Harvey Cox (Harvard University)

Stephen Holmes (New York University)

Andrew Arato (New School for Social Research and University of Frankfurt)

Jose Casanova (New School for Social Research)

Charles Tilly (Columbia University)

David Held (London School of Economics)

Joseph Raz (Oxford and Columbia University)

Steven Lukes (New York University)

Claus Offe (Humboldt University, Berlin)

Axel Honneth (J.W. Goethe Universitaet, Frankfurt)

Khaled Abou El Fadl (UCLA)

Nasr Hamed Abu Zayd (University of Humanistics)

Abdullahi An Na’im (Emory University)

Saad Eddin Ibrahim (American University of Cairo)

Abdulkader Tayob (University of Capetown)

Zakia Salime (Michigan State University)

Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Harvard University)

Charles S. Maier (Harvard University)

Sara Roy (Harvard University)

William A. Graham (Harvard University)

Elaine Bernard (Harvard University)

Alexander Keyssar (Harvard University)

Farid Esack (Harvard University)

Kwame Anthony Appiah (Princeton University)

Alexander Nehamas (Princeton University)

Anne-Marie Slaughter (Princeton University)

Jeffrey Stout (Princeton University)

Mirjam Kunkler (Princeton University)

Partha Chatterjee (Columbia University)

Todd Gitlin (Columbia University)

Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University)

Saskia Sassen (Columbia University)

Nadia Urbinati (Columbia University)

Arthur Danto (Columbia University)

Claudio Lomnitz (Columbia University)

Lila Abu-Lughod (Columbia University)

Gauri Viswanathan (Columbia University)

William R. Roff (Columbia University and University of Edinburgh)

Alfred Stepan (Columbia University)

Timothy Mitchell (New York University)

Tony Judt (New York University)

Zachary Lockman (New York University)

Adam Przeworski(New York University)

Dipesh Chakrabarty (University of Chicago)

Fred Donner (University of Chicago)

Manuela Carneiro da Cunha (University of Chicago)

Avi Shlaim (Oxford University)

Richard Caplan (Oxford University)

Alan Macfarlane (University of Cambridge)

Mary Kaldor (London School of Economics)

Paul Gilroy (London School of Economics)

Richard Sennett (London School of Economics)

Leslie Sklair (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Sami Zubaida (Birbeck College, University of London)

Veena Das (Johns Hopkins University)

William Connolly (Johns Hopkins University)

Richard Wolin (City University of New York Graduate Center)

Stanley Aronowitz (City University of New York Graduate Center)

Adam Hochschild (writer, USA)

Rabbi Michael Lerner (Editor, Tikkun Magazine)

Cherif Bassiouni (DePaul University)

Benjamin Barber (University of Maryland)

Ashis Nandy (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi)

Ariel Dorfman (Duke University)

Ziauddin Sardar (City University, London)

W.J.T. Mitchell (Editor, Critical Inquiry)

Howard Zinn (Boston University)

Stephen Lewis (McMaster University)

Michael Bérubé (Penn State University)

Steven Nadler (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Ernesto Laclau (University of Essex)

Chantal Mouffe (University of Westminster)

Eduardo Galeano (Writer, Uruguay)

Achille Mbembe (University of the Witwatersrand)

Robert Boyers (Editor, Salmagundi)

Joe Sacco (Graphic Novelist)

Adam Shatz (The Nation Magazine)

Arjun Appadurai (New School for Social Research)

Dick Howard (Stony Brook University)

John Esposito (Georgetown University)

Ian Williams (The Guardian, online columnist)

Ronald Aronson (Wayne State University)

Mark Kingwell (University of Toronto)

Azyumardi Azra (Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, Jakarta)

Norman Finkelstein (American Jewish Dissident Intellectual)

David Schweickart (Loyola University)

Marcus Raskin (Institute for Policy Studies)

Juan Cole (University of Michigan)

Carlos Forment (Centro de InvestigaciÌ?n y DocumentaciÌ?n de la Vida P̼blica)

Ronald Beiner (University of Toronto)

David E. Stannard (University of Hawaii)

Jonathan Rosenbaum (Film Critic, Chicago Reader)

Stephen Eric Bronner (Rutgers University)

Katha Pollitt (The Nation Magazine)

Charles Glass (freelance writer, Paris)

John Keane (University of Westminster)

Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive)

Anthony Barnett (openDemocracy Magazine)

Murat Belge (Bilgi University, Istanbul)

Michael Tomasky (Editor, Guardian America)

Thomas McCarthy (Yale University)

Daniel Born (Editor, The Common Review)

Dusan Velickovic (Editor, Biblioteka Alexandria, Belgrade)

Chris Toensing (Middle East Research and Information Project)

Frank Barnaby (Editor, The International Journal of Human Rights)

Douglass Cassel (University of Notre Dame)

Nelofer Pazira (President, PEN Canada)

Martín Espada (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Douglas Kellner (UCLA)

William Shepard (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)

David Ingram (Loyola University Chicago)

Enrique Krauze (Editor, Letras Libres Magazine, Mexico City)

Gavin Kitching (University of New South Wales, Australia)

Joel Rogers (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Martin Shaw (University of Sussex)

Carl Boggs (National University, Los Angeles)

Ahmed Rashid (Journalist, Lahore)

Thomas Keenan (Bard College)

Rafia Zakaria (Indiana University)

Michael Thompson (Logos: A Journal of Modern Society & Culture)

Shadia Drury (University of Regina)

Courtney Jung (New School for Social Research)

Simon Critchley (New School for Social Research)

Hussein Ibish (Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation)

Christopher Norris (Cardiff University)

Vinay Lal (UCLA)

Chris Hedges (The Nation Institute)

Simon Tormey (University of Nottingham)

Melissa Williams (University of Toronto)

Sandra Bartky (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Thomas Sheehan (Stanford University)

James Tully (University of Victoria)

Asma Afsaruddin (University of Notre Dame)

Pankaj Mishra (writer, India)

Martin Beck Matustík (Purdue University)

Stephen Zunes (University of San Francisco)

Stephen Kinzer (Northwestern University)

Rick Salutin (Columnist, The Globe and Mail

James Reilly (University of Toronto)

Ayesha Jalal (Tufts University)

Ismail Poonawala (UCLA)

Elizabeth Hurd (Northwestern University)

Michael Mann (UCLA)

Patricia Springborg (Free University of Bolzano, Italy)

Henry Munson (University of Maine)

Charles Kurzman (University of North Carolina)

Rohan Jayasekera (Associate Editor, Index on Censorship)

Stathis N. Kalyvas (Yale University)

Mary Ann Tetreault (Trinity University)

Robert Jensen (University of Texas at Austin)

Rashid Begg (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Roxanne L. Euben (Wellesley College)

Peter Mandaville (George Mason University)

Edward Friedman (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Ingrid Mattson (Hartford Seminary)

Muqtedar Khan (University of Delaware)

Duncan Ivison (University of Sydney)

Danny Postel (author, USA)

Mariam C. Said

Michaelle Browers (Wake Forest University)

Tariq Modood (University of Bristol)

Ronald J. Hill (University of Dublin)

Gregory Baum (McGill University)

Tamara Sonn (College of William and Mary)

Saba Mahmood (University of California, Berkeley)

Mark Juergensmeyer (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Lucas Swaine (Dartmouth College)

Charles Butterworth (University of Maryland)

Carole Pateman (Cardiff University)

Amrita Basu (Amherst College)

Fawaz Gerges (Sarah Lawrence College)

Yong-Bock Kim (Asia Pacific Graduate School for Integral Study of Life)

Ann Norton (University of Pennsylvania)

Cecelia Lynch (University of California, Irvine)

Susan Buck-Morss (Cornell University)

Aristide Zolberg (New School University)

Craig Calhoun (President, Social Science Research Council)

Hagit Borer (University of Southern California)

Dennis J. Schmidt (Penn State University)

John Ralston Saul (author, Canada)

Corey Brettschneider (Brown University)

Timur Kuran (Duke University)

Paul Chambers (University of Glamgoran)

Robert R. Williams (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Nicholas Xenos (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

W.D. Hart (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Louise Antony (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Rama Mantena (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Judith Tucker (Georgetown University)

Sam Black (Simon Fraser University)

Genevieve Fuji Johnson (Simon Fraser University)

Shelley Deane (Bowdoin College)

Craig Campbell (St. Edwardå?s University)

Samer Shehata (Georgetown University)

Mona El-Ghobashy (Barnard College)

Jacque Steubbel (University of the South School of Theology)

David Mednicoff (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Zeynep Arikanli (Institute of Political Studies, Aix-en-Provence, France)

R.E. Jennings (Simon Fraser University)

Walid Moubarak (Lebanese American University)

Nicola Pratt (University of East Anglia, UK)

Ulrika Mårtensson (The Norwegian University of Science & Technology)

Jillian Schwedler (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Robert D. Lee (Colorado College)

Alice Amsden (MIT)

Stephen Van Evera (MIT)

Joanne Rappaport (Georgetown University)

Douglas Allen (University of Maine)

Sharon Stanton Russell (MIT)

Matthew Gutmann (Brown University)

Louis Cantori (University of Maryland)

Catherine Lutz (Brown University)

Azzedine Layachi (St. Johnå?s University)

Katarzyna Jarecka (Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland)

H.C. Erik Midelfort (University of Virginia)

Edmund Burke, III (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Michael Urban (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Susan Moeller (University of Maryland)

Laurie J. Sears (University of Washington)

Margaret Levi (University of Washington)

Ebrahim Moosa (Duke University)

Robert Ware (University of Calgary)

John Entelis (Fordham University)

Juan Linz (Yale University)

Malise Ruthven (writer, Scotland)

Charles Derber (Boston College)

Matthew Evangelista (Cornell University)

Adam Michnik (writer, Poland)

Norman Birbaum (Georgetown University)

Hamza Yusuf (Zaytuna Institute)

Carol Gould (Temple University)

Nubar Hovsepian (Chapman University)

Colin Rowat (University of Birmingham)

Bettina Aotheker (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Jan Nederveen Pieterse (University of Illinois)

Udo Schuklenk (Queenå?s University)

Alistair M. Macleod (Queenå?s University)

Nancy Gallagher (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Jamie Mayerfeld (University of Washington)

William A. Gamson (Boston College)

Michael Goldman (University of Minnesota)

Jan Aart Scholte (University of Warwick)

Koen Koch (Leiden University, the Netherlands)

Morton Winston (College of New Jersey)

Michael Perry (Emory University)

Tony Smith (Tufts University)

W. Richard Bond (Brock University)

Adrie Kusserow (St. Michaelå?s College)

Nissim Mannathukkaren (Dalhousie University)

Justin Tiwald (San Francisco State University)

Ásta Sveinsdóttir (San Francisco State University)

Feyzi Baban (Trent University)

Elzbieta Matynia (New School University)

Beverley Milton-Edwards (Queens University Belfast)

Awad Halabi (Wright State University)

Arthur Goldschmidt (Penn State University)

Peter Railton (University of Michigan)

Naomi Klein (author, Canada)

Paul Aarts (University of Amsterdam)

Thomas Mertes (UCLA)

Samuel C. Rickless (University of California, San Diego)

Emran Qureshi (Harvard University)

Donald Rutherford (University of California, San Diego)

Terry Eagleton (University of Manchester)

Mujeeb Khan (University of California, Berkeley)

Jesse Lemisch (City University of New York)

Joanne Landy (Campaign for Peace and Democracy)

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