Akbar Ganji, called by some "Iran's most famous dissident," was a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But, troubled by the regime's repressive nature, he became an investigative journalist in the 1990s, writing for Iran's pro-democracy newspapers. Most notably, he traced the murders of dissident intellectuals to Iran's secret service. In 2000 Ganji was arrested, sentenced to six years in prison, and banned from working as a journalist. His eighty-day hunger strike during his last year in prison mobilized the international human rights community.
The Road to Democracy in Iran, Ganji's first book in English, demonstrates his lifelong commitment to human rights and democracy. A passionate call for universal human rights and the right to democracy from a Muslim perspective, it lays out the goals and means of Iran's democracy movement, why women's rights trump some interpretations of Islamic law, and how the West can help promote democracy in Iran (he strongly opposes U.S. intervention) and other Islamic countries.
Throughout the book Ganji argues consistently for universal rights based on our common humanity (and he believes the world's religions support that idea). But his arguments never veer into abstraction; they are rooted deeply in the realities of life in Islamic countries, and offer a clear picture of the possibilities for and obstacles to improving human rights and promoting democracy in the Muslim world.
About the Author
Akbar Ganji, called by some "Iran's most famous dissident," was a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Since his release from prison in March 2006, he has been traveling outside Iran, meeting with intellectuals and activists in the international human rights community. He is currently living in the United States.
"Tending toward the philosophical more than the programmatic, Ganji’s aspirations—some idealistic, some practical—will resonate with all engaged with the human rights movement.", Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"Akbar Ganji writes with the focus of a philosopher, the punch of a journalist, and the credibility of someone who has fought and suffered for the good. His words, which have cost him dearly, are luminous and moving."
—Philip Pettit, Princeton University
"Akbar Ganji's exhilarating and courageous book, both readable and philosophically deep, maps out a blueprint for reform in Iran that focuses on human rights and shows how Islam can support both democracy and sex equality. If there is reason for hope in the current situation, it is because of people like Ganji and books like this."
—Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago
"Akbar Ganji's small and readable book is the most intelligent and accessible program for the non-violent creation of democracy and human rights in Iran. Ganji has mastered both Western thought and Iranian cultural possibilities, and is one of the first male Iranians to see the centrality of achieving equal status and treatment for Iranian women, and to appreciate women's struggles and activities. He also shows the self-defeating nature of aggressive threats to Iran by the U.S. and calls for a new U.S. policy toward Iran that might encourage democracy and peace."
—Nikki R. Keddie, Professor Emerita of Middle Eastern and Iranian History, University of California, Los Angeles
"Americans first heard about Akbar Ganji during his decade as a political prisoner. It was thrilling to hear him say, 'My broken face is the true face of the Islamic Republic of Iran.' His face is healed today, and his book, The Road to Democracy in Iran, reveals a powerful and original mind. Not only is he devoted to his country, Iran; he conceives Iran as a prism for seeing the whole modern world. He advances powerful arguments for reform in Islam, but he sees that the struggle for reform is just as urgent in Christianity, in Judaism, and in every other world religion.. He understands this struggle as a permanent condition of modern life. But he argues persuasively that modern men and women have the inner strength to wage this struggle. Akbar Ganji is an exemplary 'public intellectual'. He gives new life to the promise of Martin Luther King, 'We Shall Overcome'."
—Marshall Berman, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, The City College of New York
"Ganji goes beyond religion, ethnicity, or nationality in recognizing universality of concepts such as democracy and human rights. Thus he brings Iran back to the world, allying himself with democratic elements in his country no matter what their creed, and drawing freely upon the writings of democratic thinkers in the West."
—Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
"In this brief, lucid book Akbar Ganji advocates a gradual, persistent, non-violent effort of reform in Iran leading to a just, egalitarian democracy. What he so clearly describes as a program for Iran is in reality a program for all of us, for no society today lives up to the standards of global human rights that alone will bring peace to the world. This is a book we need to keep by our bedside and read once a month until we get closer to being the kind of society he describes."
—Robert N. Bellah Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley