Akbar Ganji's predicament in the prison cell's of the Islamic Republic of Iran has caught worldwide attention as his health has deteriorated after more than 60 days of a hunger strike which may well lead to his death. A former revolutionary, he has nevertheless demanded the removal of the "supreme leader" that is Ayatollah Khamenei the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic who holds a firm hand on the political and military leadership of the theocratic regime. Akbar Ganji calls for a secular democracy, and he was one of the first to denounce the IRI's political assassinations in the 1990's.
Shirine Ebadi and 8 other Nobel Prize Winners have called for his immediate release (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4749763.stm), and intellectuals worldwide have been concerned by Ganji's fate. Amongst them are former President of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel, also a former dissident during the Communist era who spent several years in the Communist cells of his country.
Ganji's photos in his cell published on various Iranian websites, I was struck
by the similarities of Ganji's situation and that of the hero of Costa Gavras'
powerful film The Confession aka L'Aveu starring French actor Yves
Montand. The film shot in 1970 (shortly after another much acclaimed political
thriller Z also starring Yves Montand ) was based on the true events in the life
of Czechoslovakian communist Artur London. He was a loyal supporter of communism
for all his adult life, serving in the French Resistance during the Second World
War and supporting the civil war in
offers a shocking and vivid portrayal of the brutal methods used by the police
during the Stalinist regime, and also evokes the insane paranoia which marked
this period of political turmoil in
personally recall seeing the poster for this film in the early days of the
revolution back in my hometown
Akbar Ganji's motivations are of course very different from those of the hero of The Confession in that Ganji is voluntarily on a hunger strike whereas Artur London is subject to torture by the authorities of the regime. However it appears clear that in both cases they are examples of prisoners of conscience who after having been loyal to an ideology they come to realize that the ideals they supported were being betrayed by the regimes they so faithfully served.
shows one particular scene when having been liberated after several years of
imprisonment, Artur London in exile decides to denounce the situation in
What is interesting in Costa Gavras' movie is that it transcends the political regime it denounces by becoming a pamphlet against all totalitarian regimes. The comparison therefore to the situation in the IRI prisons is inevitable. How can we forget the long list of political prisoners such as Ahmad Batebi, a student holding a bloody t-shirt in a demonstration against police brutality. He has been in prison for seven years, along with the Mohammadi brothers. There's the journalist Siamak Pourzand, who is 74 and in poor health, imprisoned for several years. There's the human rights lawyer Nasser Zarafshan, sitting in Evin prison for no good reason. He's now joined by Ganji's lawyer, Abdolfattah Soltani, arrested a couple of weeks ago. Parastoo Foroohar is still chasing the Intelligence Ministry agents who hacked her parents to death in 1998 for opposing undemocratic, religious rule. Several other high-profile murders of writers around the same time have remained unsolved. Last year photographer Zahra Kazemi was killed by a blow to the head during interrogation in the presence of Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi.
Costa Gavras' film is an essential movie to see or rediscover for it remains one of the most powerful films in the political thriller's genre and alas is a reminder of the sad predicament of prisoners of conscience such as Akbar Ganji and all those who are dying in the name of Freedom.
Author's note: The Confession is unavailable on DVD or Video unlike Costa Gavras' other films. It truly deserves to be reissued.
... Payvand News - 8/17/05 ... --