akbar ganji 88.
(photo credit: )
A leading Iranian dissident on Tuesday accused the West of ignoring human rights questions in exchange for stronger trade relations with Tehran, a strategy he said has harmed democratic forces in the country.
Akbar Ganji, in the midst of a world tour to raise awareness of alleged human rights violations in Iran, also warned against a possible military intervention to overthrow the regime of conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying it would destroy the country and encourage fundamentalism, rather than establishing democracy.
"Time and again, the Western world was in its relations with Iran only concerned with trade advantages, with oil. This means that the democratic forces in our country are in difficulties," Ganji told a European Parliament committee.
"Human rights infringements are being completely ignored, they're just on the agenda. Our expectations are higher than that. We, people like myself, have high hopes in human rights, democracy," he said through an interpreter.
The European Union is Iran's main trade partner. The 25 EU members had combined exports to Iran worth â‚¬11.8 billion (US$14.8 billion) in 2004, while their combined imports were valued at â‚¬9.2 billion (US$11.5 billion), according to EU statistics.
Ganji, an investigative reporter, had angered Iran's ruling clerics with a series of articles accusing Intelligence Ministry agents of killing five dissidents and calling for the end of absolute rule by a top cleric _ currently supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Ganji was arrested in 2000 during a media crackdown by hard-liners against the reformist media. He was released from prison in March after engaging in two hunger strikes.
Since his release, he has toured Europe, collected the World Association of Newspapers' Gold Pen of Freedom award in Moscow in June, and also traveled to Washington to collect an award from the National Press Club for his writing.
On Tuesday, he told the EU lawmakers he faces another arrest when he goes back to Iran.
"I've been told that as soon as I go home I could be arrested. That is the fight for fighting for freedom and democracy. That is the high price you pay," he said.
The democratic movement in Iran is fragmented, with no structure and little coordination, Ganji said, adding that it's a situation that hurts the movement's chances in the fight against the current regime.
"Some are on the left, some are on the right, some are Royalists, others republican. There is a huge diversity," he said, adding however, that a potential attempt to install democracy by force from abroad would not succeed.
"We fear we might be dealt with the same way as Iraq - we fear some sort of an attack by the United States. It has led to nothing in Iraq and if Iran is attacked in the same way it won't lead to democracy either," he said.