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 brutal rape.”
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 country.
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