Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Human Rights Situation in Iran
    [Table of Contents]
Ms. Yasmin Ratansi (Don Valley East, Lib.):  
    Mr. Chair, I rise today to speak on the important matter of human rights violations in Iran.
     Human rights both domestically and internationally have long been a concern of Canadians. However, this government, in its five short years, has dramatically silenced the voice of Canada on the international scene. We cannot continue on this path of insularity in an increasingly global environment.
    I would like to thank the member for Mount Royal for taking leadership in asking for the take note debate tonight.
    According to Freedom House, the number of new electoral democracies has ceased to grow, while the number of backsliders has increased. Countries like Thailand and Kenya, which only a few years ago seemed safely in the democratic column, have sunk into political crisis and uncertainty.
    However, the last few weeks have seen a challenge to authoritarian rule in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and, most recently, in Iran. Tonight this debate is focusing on the events that are unfolding in Iran and concerns that are arising in regard to the treatment of those who are protesting.
    When protests were taking place in Egypt, Iran was cheering the protesters. However, when the protesters took to the streets in Iran, they were rounded up and put in prison.
    The Iranian people have suffered tremendously under this mullah regime. When the Shah was deposed, the people thought they had rid themselves of authoritarian rule. Ayatollah Khomeini had agreed to be an interim leader until democratic elections took place. The Iranian people were in for a rude awakening.
    It has now been 32 years that this regime has been in power, and during that time hundreds of thousands of Iranians have been killed. The people killed were intellectuals, professors, thinkers, opposition leaders, journalists, et cetera. Some of these opposition members moved to Iraq for sanctuary, to Camp Ashraf, and they are still not safe from the mullah regime.
    What has the world done? It has stood by and let this happen. When Ayatollah Khatami took over from Khomeini, the west thought they had a moderate leader, but that was not so. The west kept on appeasing the mullah regime to such an extent that it agreed to label opposition parties who were resisting the regime as terrorists.
    If the Canadian government truly believes in democracy and truly fights for democratic and human rights, it is high time that it follows the example of Britain and the European Union and delists the opposition parties who are resisting the regime so that they can go back and fight the mullahs democratically.
    We have heard about thousands of people who have been killed, and the killing continues. I would like to add a few names of people whose only crime has been to resist the government: Zahra Bahrami, Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei, Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi and many more.
    What was their crime? They supported the opposition. They challenged the government. They fought and died for change.
    How are we going to help their memory survive and the memory of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian citizen, and many others like her who died fighting for freedom?
    The Iranian regime’s human rights violations are state sanctioned and done with impunity. Many Iranians who have come to Canada attest to the brutality of the regime. The Iranians who fled the brutality of the regime some 30 years ago were young people, the same as we see today protesting in the streets of Iran. However, nobody paid attention to them. These young people risked their lives and those of their families to demand human rights, and the struggle is still going on.
    The Iranian people are resolute. They are resisting. The diaspora wants to keep up the struggle. They want the world to help them. If the world wants to see peace, we need to help the Iranian people in their struggle.
    Human rights groups have been pressing the UN and the international community to denounce the rash of executions in Iran. The groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, say at least 86 people have been executed in 2011 in Iran. They say at least eight of those killed last month were political prisoners.
    Iran Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi joined the call saying that the executions may increase if the world is silent.
    Canada must speak out loudly and clearly that human rights knows no borders. We must make it clear that repression and state-sanctioned murder will not go unnoticed. In a country where some 70% of the population is under 30 years old, estimates suggest that 25% to 40% of the youth is either underemployed or unemployed.
    The stark realities facing this young population and their desire for change were expressed by Professor Akhavan in his testimony at the foreign affairs subcommittee on international human rights, when he said, “When young people are willing to get murdered in the streets, it is not because they are fanatics; it is because they have no hope; they are desperate. They would rather get killed than remain silent”. Canadians must not remain silent while they die.
    At this point I would like to digress a little. I would like to bring some perspective on Islam, because after all, that is what the mullahs keep on saying; that this is an Islamic state. Let me elucidate what Islam is and what the Quran says.
    Many people are unaware of one of the fundamental principles of Islam: respect for human beings and respect for the total creation. Islam is a religion of peace and submission to the will of God. Islam believes in the dignity of human beings. It regards human beings as the crown of creation and as such, they have to be responsible for all creation. They have to treat the resources of the earth wisely, look after the environment, look after the sick, the poor, the needy and the most vulnerable in society.
    The cosmopolitan ethic in Islam stands for respect among peoples of all faith and no faith, that is an ethical respect for the dignity of the human person without any discrimination. At the conference in Amman, Jordan in 2005, where all Muslim countries were represented, the conference reaffirmed the historic plurality of the Muslim Ummah. It reinforced the consensus among all different schools of thought, of the mutual acceptance of the legitimacy of various Muslim denominations, and that pluralism should be cherished.
    The Prophet of Islam has clearly stated that difference of opinion is a blessing from God. The Holy Book for the Muslims, the Quran, states that God made us all diverse people and nations so that we may know each other.
    The Quran also states, “to take one life is to kill the whole of humanity” and “to save one life is to save humanity”. The Quran is very clear in what it states that Muslims should respect all religion and all people, people with religion and without religion, which is the cosmopolitan ethic.
     I hope this clarifies the principles that no Baha’i, no Hindu, no Achmedia or any other denominations, no Christians, no Jews, should be persecuted by the regime of Iran.
    When the west talks about Islamic regime, it gets itself confused between the principles of Islam and the Sharia. The Sharia is man made. It is not God sanctioned. I hope that in the Iranian regime, some of the people are watching, because I would like to pose a question for them. How can these mullahs claim to be religious when they are basically violating the fundamental principles of Islam? Why hide these atrocities behind a garb of religion? It is high time that the mullahs left Iran and that democracy was brought back to Iran.