The London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published a letter by Iranian political prisoner Akbar Ganji, which was smuggled out of his solitary confinement cell.
Ganji, an Iranian journalist who has published articles and a book that hint at senior Iranian officials' involvement in the 1998 assassinations of Iranian intellectual dissidents, has been in prison since 2001. From his prison cell, Ganji called for boycotting the recent Iranian presidential elections on the grounds that they perpetuate the totalitarian nature of the Islamic Republic, particularly of Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei.
Last month, following reports that his health was deteriorating and that he was on a hunger strike, he was granted furlough from prison to receive medical treatment. However, while staying with friends, he was abruptly taken back to prison by order of Tehran's General Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi.
The following are excerpts from the letter:
"Lying has become a virtue among the totalitarian regimes, while for ordinary people it is a sin. The liars falsely claim that there are no political prisoners [in Iran] and that there is no solitary confinement. Moreover, they insist that there are no hunger strikes in Iran's prisons, and that our prisons have turned into hotels. They think they can alter reality by changing words and their meaning. That is why they call the solitary confinement cells 'the special ward,' claiming that the problem has been completely resolved. They are known as 'liars' and as 'Islamic clerics'... and they deny imprisoning people for their opinions [and claim] that the detainees are suffering because of their own character flaw.
"The entire world knows of hundreds who have been incarcerated in Iran's prisons in recent years merely because they had different thoughts. Nevertheless, the liars deny that there are prisoners of conscience in the Islamic Republic. Tehran's Islamic Prosecutor [Saeed Mortazavi] fabricated a few stories about the circumstances of my arrest. Once he made up [the story] that I was in solitary because I began a hunger strike, and the next day he denied I was on a hunger strike, and falsely claimed that I was in solitary to teach me a lesson. Recently he has been telling various stories that I am in solitary because I suffer from mental problems, and require medical supervision.
"What does this medical supervision consist of? The person is imprisoned in a dark unventilated dungeon, and is denied visits even if he is in need of medical supervision. In addition, he is prevented from reading newspapers or using the phone, and is denied the 20-minute period in the sun and fresh air given to every [other] convict.
"The Islamic prosecutor said he wanted to punish me until I have 'sobered up and understood the error of my ways and recanted, just like others in the Islamic prisons.'"
"But if sobering up means denying my deeply-rooted beliefs, [they] have discovered with certainty that Ganji will never sober up. Denying [opinions] and signing recantations are tactics invented by Stalin, and the Islamic Republic [in Iran] has now adopted them.
"If necessary, I will continue a hunger strike until death. My fallen face today exposes the true character of the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It has become a symbol of the just [struggle] against tyranny. My shattered face and frail body demonstrate the inherent contradictions of a regime in which the concepts of justice and tyranny have been transposed. Whoever sees me today asks me in astonishment: Is that you? Are you Ganji?
"I want the world to know: I am not sick, and I have not been on a hunger strike. My weight loss, from 77 to 58 kilos, is the result of the torture to which I have been subjected this past month. Why are the authorities refusing to allow the press to photograph me and to publish [the photos]?"
"As I have repeatedly said: If I die, the 'Supreme Leader' [Ali Khamenei] will be responsible for my death. [This is] because Islamic Prosecutor [Saeed Mortazavi] is accountable directly to him. I opposed the absolute rule bestowed upon the 'Supreme Leader' because it runs counter to democratic values. I know that the 'Supreme Leader' will never accept even the slightest criticism. See how today, in the midst of the presidential elections, we witnessed how [presidential candidates] Rafsanjani, Karroubi, and Mo'in were punished.
"Islamic Prosecutor [Mortazavi] speaks openly of my death in prison. He told my wife: 'What if Ganji dies [in prison]? Dozens die in our jails every day; perhaps Ganji will be one of them.'
"What the Islamic prosecutor doesn't know is that Ganji may die, but the love of freedom, and the thirst for political justice will never die. Ganji may die, but humanism and the love of one's fellow man, and the hope and expectations for a better future, will never die.
"I will spend my time in solitary, but my heart will continue to beat for freedom. And some of the time I will hear prisoners cry for the windows of their solitary cells to be opened, to let the sun in."