[Akbar Ganji]'s letter intentionally evoked memories of an earlier time: Many here still remember how Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, from exile in Paris, declared unequivocally that "the shah must go!" -- and repeated it until those four little words produced the Islamic Revolution. Ganji, of course, is not Khomeini, and 2005 is not 1979, but the appeals share the same spirit. Only a willingness to speak out, to disobey, to brave the anger of the authorities will pressure the reluctant regime to heed its critics.
I first met Ganji on a chilly winter day in 2000, at a crowded intersection in downtown Tehran near his newspaper's office. Every passerby recognized him, for before he was interned in prison and forgotten, Ganji was a hero. His articles that linked powerful officials to the murders of dozens of intellectuals had held Iranians spellbound. He pulled back the shades on what he called the "dark house of ghosts," describing a country where assassins killed their victims at night and slipped, unaccountable, into the shadows. His reports helped force the regime to pull back its death squads, by making killing in the Islamic Republic less cheap and less easy.