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President Donald Trump’s announcement May 8 about sanctions on Iran brings back memories of my face-to-face with the Iranian regime.
A few years ago, I was in Geneva at the United Nations Human Rights Council and Iran was very much in the news as the U.N. was trying to get its special rapporteur into Iran to look into human rights violations. However, Iran had refused his entry. Meanwhile, Amnesty had just published a report about human rights aberrations in Iran with facts, figures and actual incidents. In the plenary where I was also present to speak on a separate issue, the Iranian ambassador rose just before I spoke and said that there were no human rights aberrations in Iran. This was all a Western conspiracy, he said.
Well! I immediately trashed my prepared speech and stood up with the Amnesty report in my hand and very politely told Mr. Ambassador he must be mistaken (a polite way of saying “you are lying through your teeth”) and that human rights violations in Iran are documented in this report (which I waved in the air).
At the UNHRC people do not usually applaud, but I got applause from Iranian dissidents and some others in the room who knew the facts but were afraid to speak out because of fear of reprisals.
All this is to say that the concern about human rights in Iran is not a new issue. However, during the Obama administration, Iran was emboldened by his lifting the sanctions and today we see a regime that continues to be violent and cruel to its own citizens.
As a Canadian, I have been concerned about some of our citizens who have become victims of Iran’s regime. To name a few of them:
In 2003, Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian citizen who was born in Iran, was taking pictures of protesters in Tehran, which prompted authorities to arrest her. Kazemi was detained, tortured and raped in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. Kazemi later died in the hospital to which her jailers transferred her.
Web programmer Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian national with permanent resident status in Canada, has been imprisoned in Iran since his arrest on 4 October 2008. He is serving a life sentence in Evin Prison.
This year, Canadian Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, died in prison in Iran while his wife was detained.
There are dozens more cases of Iranians being detained, tortured and some that have just disappeared with no accountability. LGBT community members in Iran are fearful for their lives while minorities like the Bahai’ have been persecuted mercilessly.
And we are not even taking into consideration Iranian women arrested for removing their hijabs or protestors in the streets.
What does this tell us about the regime in Iran? Is it democratic? Does it respect basic human rights?
Clearly not. The regime is on a power trip, crushing anyone who comes in its way.
In the words of an Australian reformist Shia imam “Iran must be stripped from all nuclear capabilities and Obama’s negotiations were too soft. We are dealing with the founders of Hezbollah, a ruthless group of terrorists, not a democratic government. They are more dangerous than Kim Jong Un.”
President Trump has taken a clear position on Iran’s duplicity while showing his support for the courageous and remarkable people of Iran. Hopefully this will encourage them to bring about the change that is needed.
The Canadian government that prides itself on human rights and gender equality should also take note and think twice about restoring diplomatic relations with Iran.