'We Are Ganji'

13 July 2005

There are worrying reports that the life of Iran’s longest imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji is in serious danger. Celebrated by his supporters as the Islamic world’s Vaclav Havel, Ganji is six years into a long prison sentence, although in captivity he has managed to produce a manifesto on ‘Republicanism’. Naturally it was banned by the authorities, but it has been posted on the Internet and hotly debated by bloggers. In ‘Republicanism’ Ganji advocates the separation of religion and the State.

Yet Ganji is not forgotten. In a move that one blogger likened to the famous scene from the film Spartacus where the slaves stand up to the Romans by saying "I am Spartacus”; during the April 2005 in coordinated protest (on the anniversary of his imprisonment) a great number of bloggers renamed their blogs Akbar Ganaji for a week. ‘We are Ganji’, was the cry.

Translated from the Iranian blog, 'F.M. Sokhan:

'From today for a week I will rename my blog Akbar Ganji. Just to have the name of this champion of the pen on top of my writing is a great personal honour'

As editor of the Sobhe-Emruz newspaper, Akbar Gangi daringly exposed a ‘power mafia’ network behind the murders of writers and intellectuals. It was organized via key figures in the merchant class, the religious seminaries, the Council of Guardians, the Revolutionary Guards, the judiciary and the state-run radio and television. The murders also had backing from those in high office. Gangi refers to Iranian ex-president Rafsanjani as the ‘Red Eminence‘ – alluding to Cardinal Richelieu, the power behind Catherine de Medici’s rule and chief architect of the slaughter of the Huguenots.

Unlike anything ever seen before in Iran, people formed long lines outside the newspaper kiosks just to read Ganji’s latest revelations. He made the previously shadowy Haghani Islamic School in Qom a household name when he pointed out that most members of the ‘power mafia’ were former pupils.

At his prosecution Ganji was confronted by one of the young rising stars of the Hagahni School, Judge Saeed Mortazavi, who can be credited with the closure of more than 100 pro-democracy publications and the harassment and imprisonment of many writers and political activists in recent years. Mohsen Armin, a reformist ex-MP in the Iranian Parliament, has even accused Mortazavi of being directly involved in the death of Dr Zahra Kazemi, who was beaten into a coma while in the custody of the judiciary. As a show of gratitude for Judge Mortazavi’s services to the Islamic Republic of Iran, in April 2004 the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei awarded him the title of ‘Best Leader of the Year‘, an annual award given to exceptionally high-preforming officials and the superstars of the ideological state.

Translated from the Iranian blog, 'The Hungry Philosopher':

'In my life there have been times when, consumed with rage, I have felt infinite helplessness and loss. . . A time when you feel that an injustice is crushing your mind. . . you want to scream and shout and all you can see is the sneering face of your enemy. . . an opponent who seems only to get turned on even more at the spectre of your wet eyes and red cheeks. . . times when you feel that God must feel ashamed to have created man. . .

Being confronted with the photo of Akbar Ganji facing Saeed Mortazavi [head prosecutor of Tehran’s revolutionary court] was one of those times . . . It is a foul symbol of a terrorized people forced to look at the smirking faces of the powerful. . .

I have lived for 27 years. . . 25 years of them under revolution, repression, assassinations, hangings and war. . . My youth and childhood passed away during bombings in underground shelters gazing at the trembling hands of my elders. . .

I am stunned that we walk past injustices so indifferently. . . Sometimes I think this place is the land cursed by God. . . Sometimes a photograph of an injustice and that smirk, keeps you awake till dawn...'

Nasrin Alavi

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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