MONTREAL – Aug. 2, 2007 – Akbar Ganji, the celebrated Iranian journalist and dissident who spent six years in prison for exposing rights abuses committed by Iran’s Fundamentalist regime, is the winner of Rights & Democracy’s 2007 John Humphrey Freedom Award.
Mr. Ganji’s fearless commitment to human rights, democratic development and non-violence is an inspiration and source of hope to his fellow Iranians. A journalist by trade, Mr. Ganji’s work has appeared in pro-democracy newspapers across Iran, most of which the government has since shut down. He has also written 10 books, including the bestselling The Dungeon of Ghosts (1999) and The Red Eminence and The Grey Eminence (2000).
In April 2000, Mr Ganji was sentenced to six years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime and its institutions.” The charges stemmed from a series of investigative articles exposing the complicity of then President Rafsanjani and other leading members of the conservative clergy in the murders of political dissidents and intellectuals in 1998. During his time in jail, Mr. Ganji endured solitary confinement and finally a hunger strike that lasted from May to August 2005. He also continued to write, producing a series of influential political manifestos and open letters calling for Iran’s secularization and the establishment of democracy through mass civil disobedience. The works were smuggled out of Evin and published on the Internet. A collection of his writings in English will be published next year by the University of California Press.
“Mr Ganji’s commitment to free speech and democratic dissent has come at great personal risk,” said Janice Stein, Chair of Rights & Democracy’s Board of Directors. “His willingness to endure torture, hunger strikes and solitary confinement in the name of human rights and democracy in Iran speaks to the kind of courage the John Humphrey Freedom Award was established to celebrate.”
Rights & Democracy presents the John Humphrey Freedom Award each year to an organization or individual from any country or region of the world, including Canada, for exceptional achievement in the promotion of human rights and democratic development. Named in honour of John Peters Humphrey, the McGill University law professor who prepared the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the award includes a speaking tour of Canadian cities to help increase awareness of the recipient's human rights work.