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Staring death in the eye… a letter smuggled from an Iranian prison | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Lying has become a virtue for totalitarian regimes despite being widely condemned amongst ordinary folk. Indeed, liars currently deny the existence of prisoners of conscience and solitary confinement, insisting that no prisoner is on hunger strike in Iranian jails and that these prisons have, in fact, been transformed into hotels. They assume that reality can be modified, by merely uttering a few different words and expressions. Solitary confinement cells become private suites and any mention of trouble is immediately dismissed.

These liars, otherwise known as Islamic thinkers, are obsessed with the essence as opposed to the existence of human beings. They continue to deny holding prisoners of opinions behind bars, instead blaming the corrupt essence of these men and women for their imprisonment.

Of course, the entire world is aware that hundreds of people have been locked up across Iran in the last few years because of their beliefs. Liars, however, continue to deny prisoners of conscience exist in the Islamic Republic.

The Prosecutor General in Tehran has created a web of lies on the circumstances surrounding my imprisonment. Once, he claimed I was transfered to solitary confinement because I had started a huger strike. The next day, he denied I had stopped eating and said the authorities wanted to teach me a lesson. In another version of events, it is alleged I had trouble breathing and required medical assistance.

What medical care would that be? Is it the sort that confines a prisoner to a dark, badly ventilated cell and bans any visits by medical practitioners? Is it the kind that prohibits me from reading newspapers and using the telephone, depriving me from the twenty minutes of sunlight prisoners are entitled to?

In the words of the Prosecutor General, I was being punished so I would “wake up and realize [I] have embarked on the wrong path and desist, as other prisoners in the Islamic Republic have done.” If this awakening means rejecting of my deep-rooted convictions, then let the entire world know that Gangi will, forever, remain asleep. Retreating and signing letters of repentance are tactics that Joseph Stalin invented that Tehran has adopted.

If need be, I will continue my hunger strike until death. Today, my gaunt face unmasks the Islamic Republic. I have become a symbol of justice in the face of tyranny, my emaciated body exposing the contradictions of a government where justice and tyranny have been reversed.

Those who have seen me recently have asked, in amazement, is this you? Is this the Gangi we all know?

Let the world know that I am not ill and have not embarked on a hunger strike. The dramatic loss of weight I have experienced, from 77kg to 58kg, is a direct result of the torture I have been subjected to in the last month. This is why the authorities are refusing to allow the media to photograph me and publish the pictures.

I have said it and will say it again: If I die, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will be responsible for my death since the Prosecutor General is directly answerable to him. I have protested against the absolute powers given to the Supreme Leader as they contradict the principles of democracy, with the knowledge that Khamenei does not tolerate criticism. We have all witnessed the punishment handed out to Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mostafa Moin in the last presidential elections.

The Prosecutor General has openly discussed my death in prison. He has even asked my wife, “What if Gangi dies? Tens of individuals die behind bars everyday. He will be one of many.” He doesn’t understand that whilst my body might perish, my love of freedom and thirst for political justice will never die. Gangi might pass away but his love for humanity, hope and aspirations for a better future will remain.

I spend my days in solitary confinement yet my heart continues to beat to the sound of freedom. Some days, I hear other prisoners around me crying and begging that the windows of their cells be opened to let the sunlight it.

*Akbar Gangi is one of the most active critiques of the Islamic Republic. In 1997, he published a book exposing the presence of death squads supported by pillars of the regime to kill its opponents. He has been arrested and released on many occasions since then. Last month, he was detained again, after being taken away form his home. Gangi smuggled this letter from his prison cell last week.