On 13 March 1994 the renowned author and social critic Ali-Akbar Sa’idi-Sirjani, was arrested on charges such as “distributing drugs and alcoholic beverages”. He was kept incommunicado during his detention, and his lawyer was never allowed to meet him. Nine months later the authorities announced that Mr. Sirjani had “died” of a “heart attack” while in custody. According to his family, Mr. Sirjani had a healthy heart.
In 1988 and 1989, Sa’idi-Sirjani had published a pair of works on classical literature that bore long introductions full of metaphoric but unmistakable criticisms of clerical rule. The books swiftly became best-sellers, and Sirjani soon found all his works banned. In response, he wrote letters to officials in which he objected to government censorship. This was a new challenge for the Islamic Republic’s authorities.
Sirjani was not an oppositionist, he was not a fomenter of coups or armed rebellions, and he did not seek to overthrow the Islamic regime. He was just a peaceful writer offering a principled public defense of freedom of expression for everyone. Iran’s Islamist authorities could not arrest and openly execute a prestigious author
for peacefully defending freedom of expression, instead they launched a campaign of calumny and defamation against him in the official press, hoping to intimidate and silence him. But Sa’idi-Sirjani didn’t remain silent, he openly and bravely defended his honor and dignity and wrote several open letters to the Leader of Islamic Republic, Ali Khamene’i:
“…, why do they treat me in such immoral ways? Doesn’t the country have laws and courts? … Either tell them to arrest me and kill me as a punishment for the crimes they have made up for me as they pleased, or adjudicate my case and state the reason for
banning my book.”
Twenty years ago this day, Ali Akbar Sa’idi-Sirjani became one of the first victims of the first front opened by the Iranian government in its war against civil society. Mr. Sa’idi-Sirjani was killed, but in the decades following his murder, his struggle for civil rights was pursued by his fellow writers, students, workers, teachers, women, and ethnic and religious minorities in Iran. Iran’s civil rights movement, of which he was a pioneer, continues to develop and expand in new directions each day.
On the 20th anniversary of his murder, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF) publishes Ali Akbar Sa’idi-Sirjani’s story in Omid, A Memorial in Defense of Human Rights, and pays homage to his memory. ABF supports his family’s claim to their right to know the truth and obtain justice.