Yesterday, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty dinner to honor Akbar Ganji. He speaks little to no English so a translator read his inspiration speech to the crowd while he stood on stage with his wife. A great deal of his speech rejected western invention in the Middle East. As an Iranian journalist, he published stories uncovering the murders of dissident intellectuals by Iran’s secret service. He spent six years in solitary confinement in prison and went on a eighty day hunger strike that almost took his life. While in prison, he sneaked out letters that exposed the large number of political prisoners in Iran. One of his quotes from his letters that I find empowering, “I may die but the demand for freedom, democracy and justice will continue to live.”
As an American, I cannot begin to grasp the struggle he has gone through to advance liberty. Sure, America has a long way to go to resemble a truly free society. However, I have been on national television criticizing the President’s policies and the Feds have yet to knock on my door. With some notable exceptions, I feel that I am free to discuss my political opinions on this blog without acquiring a jail sentence.
Akbar Ganji’s courage is remarkable. The event also reminded me of the thousand of political prisoners that will likely die in prison without the world knowing their name. These prisoners only “crime” was speaking out against their tyrannical government and they will never be honored in an elaborate ceremony. I am beyond grateful that Akbar Ganji and thousands of other political prisoners are willing to sacrifice their life in the name of freedom.