Canada & Kazemi
A Canadian citizen is a Canadian citizen is a Canadian citizen?
April 4, 2005
The latest development in the Zahra Kazemi story continues its two-year run
of a theatre of the absurd. When the news first broke, almost two years ago,
that a Canadian photojournalist, Ziba Zahra Kazemi, was killed while detained,
and imprisoned by Iranian authorities, the Canadian government expressed its
outrage over the incident by re-calling its ambassador to Iran, demanding that
Ms. Kazemi's body be returned to Canada, and that an investigation into the
Kazemi affair be conducted in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.
That was two years ago, and after illegally burying Kazemi's
body, against the wishes of her family, refusing to allow then
Canadian ambassador, Phillip Mackinnon, access to the mock trial
and investigation into Kazemi's death, the Iranian government has
yet to oblige any of Canada's demands or concerns.
This past week, an Iranian doctor, Shahram Azam, gave testimony
in Ottawa claiming that he was on duty the night that prison officials
admitted Kazemi into a Tehran hospital. Azam maintains that he
has proof that he was on duty that night at the hospital, and his
detailed examination of Kazemi's body coincides with Kazemi's own
mothers report of what she was witness to when visiting her daughter
in the hospital. What Azam revealed to the Canadian government,
and to the Canadian public, had long been suspected; that Kazemi
was brutally tortured to death.
Like many people, the reading of the abuse that Kazemi endured
before being carted off for death, was quite unbearable. According
to Azam's medical examination, Kazemi's injuries included: a large
bruise stretching from the right side of her forehead to her ear;
deep scratches behind her neck; a bruised right shoulder; two broken
fingers and three missing fingernails; a broken nose; skull fracture;
crushed left toe; and a burst ear membrane. The nurse who was on
duty that night also reported to the doctor that Ms. Kazemi's genital
area was "severely damaged and revealed obvious signs of a
Forty-eight hours after Iranian doctor Shahram Azam's testimonial,
Iranian officials rejected the statement describing how Kazemi's
body was riddled with obvious signs of torture. You see, on July
28, 2004, Iran's judiciary asserted, "that the incident leading
to the death of the late Kazemi was because of a drop in her blood
sugar level caused by a hunger strike, thus making her fall from
a standing position and get hurt".
Azam's account of Kazemi's condition differs sharply from that
of Iran's judiciary. Referring to Azam as a "defector",
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hamid Reza Asefi, told the
state-run news agency, IRNA, "These allegations made by an
Iranian refugee are baseless and false." Asefi goes on to
maintain, "Hospital officials have denied this person's name
was on the medical staff team, and concludes by asserting that
this new found evidence is part of a campaign to make Iran look
bad in the international arena.
Perhaps the first step that Canada should take is to remind Mr.
Asefi and the Iranian government that it is Iran itself that has
been spearheading this smear campaign. With its insistence on using
torture and terror as a cornerstone of its foreign and domestic
policy, the Iranian government has shown to the international community
what Iranians have known for too long, the Iranian government has
absolutely no regard for human rights.
For anyone who has been witness to the callous disregard that
the Islamic Republic of Iran has for human rights, Iran's reply
to the new evidence brought forth was to be expected. The government
of the Islamic Republic, not only in its handling of the Kazemi
affair, but also in its systemic and indefatigable violation of
human rights, has demonstrated for the world the totalitarian and
theocratic nature of its regime, and when an odious convention
is exposed by reducing it to its most ridiculous form, it cannot
exist very long.
As Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin noted, "I think there's
no doubt whether you are talking about international courts or
whether you are talking about the UN Commission on Human Rights,
I would certainly think the details of what happened to her now
in the testimony that has been brought has got to make the world
aware of just what Iran is all about and that they have got to
be held to account."
How Canada purports to hold the Iranian government accountable
has yet to be discovered. Keep in mind, that two years have passed
since the detainment, rape, torture, and murder of an Iranian-Canadian
photojournalist in Iran, and the Canadian government continues
to "search for the truth", and "review its options." In
fact, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Pettigrew, has
already noted that Canada is not going to recall its ambassador
to Iran, nor will it propose economic sanctions.
Granted, annual trade between the two countries sits at only around
three hundred million, an argument that the Canadian government
is currently utilizing to justify its continued bi-lateral relations
with Iran, yet it is obviously an amount that the Canadian government
is not willing to part with.
As Canada has been slow to realize,
the reality is that there is no independent judiciary in the Islamic
Republic of Iran; there is only the reality of absolute rule, in
the form of a supreme jurisconsult (Velayat e Faqih),
who receives his mandate from the cosmos. Canadian citizens should
be able to trust that the Canadian government will address the
realities of the Iranian system of governance and speak to its
duplicitous policy of mouthing the words of democracy, while sanctioning
the detention, rape, and torture of not only its own citizens,
but also citizens of the international community.
The truth is that a Canadian photojournalist gave her life for
trying to expose the Iranian government for what it is, and for
Canada to continue its fruitless engagement with the Islamic Republic
of Iran is not only non- sensical and disingenuous, but quite offensive.
You see, Zahra Kazemi was a chosen Canadian, meaning she chose
this country as her home, and that means more than simply being
born somewhere. Canada must demonstrate, not only to the Iranian-Canadian
community, which numbers some three hundred thousand, but also
to all of its nationals, why Ziba Zahra Kazemi had chosen to come
to this country in the first place.
It was a Canadian that penned the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights in 1948, a declaration that the Iranian government is a
signatory to. Also instrumental in the development of an International
Criminal Court, Canada must begin to utilize the institutions that
it has helped to develop, and begin to live up to the image that
it has constructed for itself. If Paul Martin wants to increase
Canada's presence in the international community, this is an excellent
place to begin. If not, Canadians need to start asking themselves
whether or not there is a two-tier system of citizenship in this
Samira Mohyeddin is an Iranian / Canadian and has a degree
in Religion and Middle Eastern Studies from the Uni'ersity of
Toronto, and is currently pursuing graduate studies in Women's
Studies and Middle Eastern Studies there. See her weblog: SmiraMohyeddin.blogspot.com