"Crimes of Silence"
Silently, an image flows into our minds: the guards taking a group of our comrades from the male solitary section for execution, blind-folded, each one’s hand on the shoulder of the one ahead of him, chanting and singing the International, walking to their deaths. Slowly we retrace our steps, resume our sleeping places on the spread blankets on the floor. It is quiet now.
That's from Shokoufeh Sakhi's recollection of her time in Tehran's Evin Prison in 1988, during the days of the Death Commissions. Roughly 5,000 Iranian political prisoners were systematically exterminated over a three-month period in the summer of that year.
The Death Commissions' overseers now occupy many of the senior positions in the upper echelons of the Khomeinist regime. The Iran Tribunal would like justice to come to them. That's the subject of my Ottawa Citizen column today. I'd only glanced at the Iran Tribunal in last week's column, here, and reckoned a closer look-in was warranted.
That Canada has taken such a leading role in calling Tehran to account - as in this week, for the tenth year running, Canada led the charge in the annual UN resolution condemning the Khomeinist regime for its human rights record - is a thing Canadians can be proud of. The Iran Tribunal's Kaveh Shahrooz is right to observe that Canada could do more, but the thing is, there's little percentage in it for the governing Conservatives.
Any time Ottawa says anything about Tehran, Canada's punditti pile on with how Stephen Harper is only being mean to Iran to make Bibi Netanyahu happy, and it's not like there's a clamouring, broad-based activist constituency in the country insisting that Ottawa do more. Why is that? Shahrooz touched on the answer, as I reported in my column, and his 2006 research, incidentally, produced this illuminating result (pdf). But Shahrooz also said:
"The labour movement doesn’t even speak out forcefully when their own brothers and sisters in Iran are attacked." One of the exceptions Sharooz mentioned, a great guy long known to me, is Mehdi Kouhestaninejad at the Canadian Labour Congress, who first put me on to Sharooz, incidentally.
But here's the broader context, as Sharooz describes it: “At some point, the Left lost its bearings. The Left used to be about fighting fascists, but somewhere along the way, the only lens to see the world through was anti-imperialist, and the only thing you need to do is speak out about the United States and Israel."
Well, bingo. I was on about this very thing quite some while ago. It's an especially dirty little secret of contemporary leftishness.
Jason Kenney was also a lot more forthcoming, too, than the space of the column allowed me to show. So here's the whole of what Kenney said:
"Canada has led the world in condemning Iran's atrocious human rights record. Amongst other measures, we have been the lead sponsor of the annual UN General Assembly resolution detailing Iran's widespread violations of basic human and civil rights.
"We did the same during our tenure on the UN Human Rights Council. We sought an indictment against Sayed Mortazevi for his role in the murder of Canadian journalist Zara Kazemi. And we have prioritized the resettlement of Iranian refugees who have fled persecution, including Baha'is, gays, dissidents, journalists, and Christians.
"We support the effort at the Hague to bring Iranian officials complicit in serious crimes to account. Indeed, one of the reasons for the recent closure of Canada's Embassy in Tehran was our decision to designate Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism under the newly adopted Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which will allow victims of Iranian sponsored terrorist acts to seek civil remedies against the Iranian regime.
"We do everything possible to prohibit Iranian officials from entering Canada if they are complicit in terrorism, war crime, crimes against humanity, or espionage. For example, we are vigilant about denying entry to Iranians tied to the IRGC and the Basij. Amendments to the Immigration Refugee Protection Act included in Bill C-43 would broaden our ability to exclude certain members of the regime by allowing us to bar entry to members of governments against which we have economic sanctions, the close family members of senior regime members, or those with a track record of promoting violent hatred or terrorism."
All this, it seems to me, is worth knowing, because it's little known, and thus poorly appreciated.
Fun fact, in a sick way:
The Iranian ambassador to the UN responded to Tuesday's Canada-sponsored resolution at the UN in the customary fashion. The resolution was all about “the urgencies and exigencies of Canadian internal politics,” not least Ottawa’s support for Israel’s recent operations against Hamas in Gaza. Those are exactly the words Iran’s UN ambassador used in response to Canada’s UN resolution in 2004, too, only back then the "urgencies and exigencies of Canadian internal politics" involved the “political outcry in Canada over the unfortunate death of Iranian journalist Zagra Kazemi.” This was Tehran’s diplomatic circumlocution for the July 11, 2003 murder, by rape and torture, of Montreal-based Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, in Evin Prison.
Another sad little milestone this week:
In Tehran on Monday, the Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, entered the seventh week of her hunger strike in Evin Prison. Sotoudeh has been in jail for more than two years now, for the crime of “spreading propaganda” against the Khomeinist regime. Not satiated by the agonies of the thousands of dissidents it has imprisoned and tortured since the 2009 democracy uprising, Tehran has been jailing their relatives and defence lawyers too.