Bible Commentator

Special Stories

Rabbi Moshe Reiss

Special Stories #2: July 15

Iran Election:

"Iran is the most democratic dictatorship and the most dictatorial democracy." (Menashe Amir)

Christopher de Bellaigue (‘In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs’) talked with veterans of both the Iranian war of that country's Islamic Revolution - middle-aged men - who in their youth hungered after martyrdom in the name of Shia Islam, or who pledged their souls to the cause of revolution in the waning days of the Shah. Many of these veterans, Mr. de Bellaigue argues, see today's Iran as "a parody of the Iran that Khomeini had promised them. . .  The country had never known such moral corruption. Premarital sex, divorce, drug addiction and prostitution had reached levels that you'd associate with a degenerate Western country."

Azar Nafisi (‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’) taught literature in the University of Allameh Tabatabai in Tehran from 1987-1995 until she left when the ‘cultural purists’ made life for her female students impossible. She tells us she lived in a “culture that denied any merit to literary works, considered them important only when they were handmaidens to something seemingly more urgent – mainly ideology.” The chief censor she tells us, for theater, TV and film was ‘nearly blind’. His assistant would explain the action to him.

QOM, Iran: Lamenting the disappearance of revolutionary values and loosening of women's veils, the Iranian clerical stronghold of Qom flocked behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the man to bring morality back to Iran.

Clad in her chador in the separate female queue outside a mausoleum, Maryam Abdolahi, 30, had no doubt who she was voting for as president: "Ahamadinejad will return us to true Islam" and "correct the wayward thoughts of reform."

Maryam Mohammadi, 16, decided the mausoleum consecrated to the sister of the eighth Shiite imam was the appropriate site to mark her first ever vote in elections.

"People have not understood the concept of liberty set out by the reformers. With Ahmadinejad this will be easier to understand," she says of Tehran's austere and ultra-conservative mayor.

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.


The Islamic Prosecutor Wants to Punish Me Until I Recant, Like Other Prisoners in Islamic Jails

"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."


"Denying [Opinions] and Signing Recantations are Tactics Invented by Stalin, and the Islamic Republic [in Iran] has Now Adopted Them."

"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]?"


If I Die, the 'Supreme Leader' [Ali Khamenei] Will Be Responsible for My Death"

"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"

"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." (MEMRI, July 12)