As Baha’is we sometimes forget that the brutality of the Iranian regime is not restricted to just us. They punish equally all perceived or real threats to their powerbase.
So it was with Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian born, Canadian citizen. She was in Iran on July 2003, working as a photo-journalist for a Montreal publication when she was taken into custody by Iranian authorities. Later it became known that she had been arrested because she was taking pictures of a prison. It also became public, after some time, that she had died while in custody.
The versions of how she went from a healthy, very much alive journalist to a very bruised and dead corpse differ. In response to demands of the Canadian government for an inquiry, the IRI put together a kangaroo court and its ‘official’ finding was that while under arrest, Ms. Kazemi had gone on a hunger strike; which reduced her blood sugar; which in turn caused her to faint and fall down; which resulted in her knocking her head on the floor and dying as a result of a brain hemorrhage.
Meanwhile, those that don’t believe in the stories of the IRI (the Easter bunny, Santa Claus and other evil concoctions) held a different version. One that was much more gruesome and tragic. One that involved the flagrant violation of international law and human rights.
All we and the family of Ms. Kazemi received from the IRI were repeated tellings of their version and a hurried funeral in Iran. The Iranian regime denied all of the family’s request to have the body flown back to Canada. They also said that since the court finding was final, no one would be punished for what had happened.
Up until a few weeks ago, the world didn’t have real proof for either version. But that was before Dr. Shahran Azam and his wife fled Iran with the sole aim of bearing witness to the truth of this case. Dr. Azam, you see was the emergency doctor in charge of the emergency ward the night that the badly beaten and bruised body of Ms. Kazemi was wheeled in from Evin prison.
The testimony that he gave the world – once safely out of Iran – was chilling and graphic. Through his testimony we now know that Ms. Kazemi was not only beaten but she was systematically tortured and brutally raped repeatedly. Her body simply gave up after taking about a week of such punishment.
The IRI for its part, true to form, is denying that such a doctor even exists. They are also denying the new request of the Canadian government, for a forensic examination, claiming that no examination by a panel of experts is called for. The judicial finding, they again assert, is final and binding.
What really breaks my heart is seeing the family of Ms. Kazemi being forced to fight on two fronts – one the corrupt and vile IRI and the second the limp and weak Canadian government. Its time that the Canadian government grew a backbone and actually stood up for its citizens and human rights around the world. To date, all that Canada has done has been to pull its ambassador from Tehran (and then put in another one a few months later) and to emit a lot of empty rhetoric.
Meanwhile the mullah’s go right on entering and exiting Canada, using it as their playground as well as a platform to launder and invest vast sums of money they have looted from the Iranian people.
Here’s what I would do if I were in charge (each would follow one month’s grace period to gauge a reaction from the IRI):
- Pull out the Ambassador of Canada from Iran
- Expell the Iranian Ambassador from Canada
- Sever all official ties (go through a third party like the Swiss)
- Severly restrict Iranian travel to Canada (impose a visa fee of $50,000/person)
- Cut economic ties with Iran (cancel contracts, use tarriffs on imports from Iran and impose a total creeping embargo)
- Freeze IRI assets within Canada and (bank accounts, real estate, etc.)
- Freeze assets held by persons tied to the Iranian government
- Confiscate both
- Turn over these assets (est. $3 Billion) to a Victim’s Fund
- Use the money from the Victim’s Fund to take the IRI to International Court
- Use the money to compensate Ms. Kazemi’s family and other victims (& families)
- Use UN influence to put pressure on Iran’s human rights violations
I think you have to ratchet up the pressure and I think you have to hit them where it hurts. Realistically, mullah’s care about one thing: money. Always have. Always will. So until you hurt them there, you don’t really even have their attention.
Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m not the person in charge of things over in Canada and neither does it help that those that are, are now embroiled in a huge scandal and utterly distracted from the Kazmi case.
If I’m allowed a digression from the main point…the scandal which is distracting them, in case you haven’t heard, is about something which happened a while time ago when Canada was going through a referendum which risked splitting the country apart (Quebec, a predominantly French province wanted to separate from the rest of the English speaking part). It turns out that during the 1995 Quebec referendum, the then ruling party (which happens to be the Liberals and the same ruling party as now) hired some advertising agencies and promotional agencies to help sell the “Yes” side – the side that wanted to keep things whole.
These government contracts where rather large. And they were given to persons who were long time allies of the Liberal party. Nothing surprising there, really. But it goes one step further. Not only were these contracts given to cronies; they had to give kickbacks to those who were awarding the contracts. As they say, power corrupts. And it seems that Liberal power corrupts liberally.
The only reason that the public found out about these shenanigans is that a very hard working and astute public figure with a thankless job – the Auditor General – found some transactions rather fishy and simply would not let the matter rest.
Makes you think a little doesn’t it? I mean if it weren’t for the Auditor General we probably wouldn’t be any wiser about this corruption. It makes me think also what sort of things an ‘Auditor General’ may find fishy in the Baha’i Funds. That is if we had an Auditor General in the Baha’i Faith. But that’s a whole different ball of wax.