Championing justice, liberty and human rights.

Akbar Ganji, born January 31, 1960, is an acclaimed and widely celebrated Iranian journalist and writer. Often referred to as not only as the country’s “preeminent political dissident,”1 but also as the “Iranian Vaclav Havel.”2

Ganji has become a well-known and well-respected critic of the Iranian government and is recognized as a champion of justice, liberty and human rights world-wide. For his efforts, Ganji has received a number of human rights awards.3

Ganji, born in the Qavzin province of Iran, was raised in a pious and impoverished household. He became active in the Islamist movement against the Shah at an early age, and was an active participant in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. He joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war, but not long after, became unhappy with the regime. According to Gajni, “I saw a fascism and political tyranny emerging in Iran. Anyone who asked questions was branded ‘anti-revolutionary’ and ‘against Iran.’”4 Not much later, Ganji quit the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and chose to become an investigative journalist instead, seeking to expose the Islamic authorities. Shortly after becoming a journalist, he started publishing articles about the excesses and corruption that was running rampant in the President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s administration in pro-democracy publications. However, most of these publications were shut down by the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a branch of the national government.

In 1998 came Ganji’s most well-known work, and perhaps the work that made him a house-hold name in Iran – the Chain of Murders of Iran. Published in the Sobh Emrouz, a reformist Iranian newspaper, Ganji released a series of articles in 1998 which exposed the murders of a number of dissident authors. Later in 2000, Ganji even pointed fingers at former Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian for being responsible for these murders, and denounced a number of senior clerics for issuing fatwas, or religious orders, which validated these assassinations5. He also published two best-selling books, which strived to expose the dark truths about authoritarian clerical rule, and the diminishment of the freedom of speech and expression which was supported by the religious hard-liners.

In April 2000, after exposing the name of Fallahian for being responsible for the Chain of Murders of Iran, Ganji was arrested as he returned from an academic conference in Berlin, and was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 5 years internal exile later in 2001. Later, upon appeal, this sentence was shortened to six years, and he was consequently banned to continue on as a journalist. During this sentence, which was served in full, Ganji wrote from his political cell, much like many other political activists. These pieces that he wrote served as open letters, and were smuggled out of the jail cell and published on the internet. During his last year in prison, 2005, Ganji gained attention from the larger human rights community – including eight former Nobel Peace laureates – when he went on a four month hunger strike.6 Since his release, Ganji has written extensively and speaking across Europe and North America.


  1. The MIT Press. “The Road to Democracy in Iran.” Accessed February 9, 2014.
  2. SSRC. “The Immanent Frame.” Accessed February 9, 2014.
  3. Al Jazeera. “Profile: Akbar Ganji.” Accessed February 9, 2014.
  4. Afshin Molavi, The Soul of Iran (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005), Kindle Edition.
  5. SSRC. “The Immanent Frame.” Accessed February 9, 2014.
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