Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Human Rights Situation in Iran
Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Chair, as we have heard this evening, the human rights situation in Iran is deteriorating rapidly. We have heard disheartening reports of the denial of rights of religious minorities, due process violations, torture and politically motivated executions. Even juvenile executions are on the rise in that country. Iran has violated all of its obligations under international conventions.
    Let me deal for a minute with the report of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights on Iran, which highlights all of these violations. My colleague, the member for Lanark, is the chair of the subcommittee which issued the report. I want to thank him and the subcommittee for doing such a tremendous job of highlighting these issues and making the report available.
    For thousands of years Iran has been a civilization. It is respected around the world because of its culture, human rights, et cetera. The Persian civilization is one of the cornerstones of civilizations around the world. This is a testament to the Persian people of Iran. We are fortunate to have a large Iranian community here in Canada who are contributing not only in culture but in all aspects of human development and history.
    Every nation on the earth recognizes and respects Persians and Iranians. That respect has been there throughout the history of time. The people of Iran are now being abused by the current regime that is in power. However, because of their goodwill, other countries around the world are reluctant to speak out about the human rights violations taking place in that country. The shah was overthrown because he did not have a good human rights record. We must never forget that it was the people of Iran who wanted that change, just like the people of Egypt wanted a change. When the shah regime was overthrown, the people of Iran looked at this bureaucracy that has been historically provided and they put their trust into this regime of Khomeini’s and the clerics who have served this Islamic revolution. An Islamic revolution does not mean that a regime should suppress the human rights of the citizens of its own country.
    What is Iran doing today? Is Iran doing anything other than it did with the Persian empire to settle this? No. The biggest achievement of that government is the biggest repression of its own citizens. Should it get a Nobel prize for the oppression of its own citizens, sentencing them to death, hangings without trials and juvenile killings? What are these leaders doing? They forget their own strength. They are doing this to stay in power.
    Look at the demonstrations that are currently taking place in Iran. The current president would not admit that he has lost, nor will he stand up to scrutiny. Instead, he sent out his goons to hit the opposition. We are highly disturbed by the fact that there are people in the parliament of that country who are calling for the execution, I repeat, the execution of its opposition leaders. We cannot imagine that so-called elected officials anywhere in the world would call for the execution of their own citizens or their own leaders. That is a serious flaw.
    The Iranian revolution has betrayed its own people, nobody else. The people who are suffering are its own people. Any time an Iranian tries to give a speech or say something, the Iranian government throws the person in jail and, if it can get away with it, will actually execute him or her.
    Let us talk about the woman Iran was going to stone to death. President Lula of Brazil, the biggest friend of Iran, had to intervene and say he was going to take the lady to Brazil. That is how bad the situation in Iran is.
    This government stands up for its policy of supporting human rights and democracy. Today we are speaking about what is happening in Iran and I hope more people and countries speak out. Even the countries that recognize Iran as a bastion of civilization and have respect for it, they need to speak against this regime. We are not talking about the Iranian people, we are talking about the regime that is in power and wants to stay there at all costs, even by the killing of its own people.
    Iran’s diplomats travel around the world. I am a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I travel around the world and meet with Iranians. The regime is using what it has gained in the past, saying that it should be respected. Yes, we would like to respect the Iranians. Canadians of Iranian origin have shown how much they can be respected, but there is a difference. The difference is the regime. The regime is a murderous one. I am sorry that I am using very harsh words. I have been there. Let us really look at what is going on there.
    Demonstrators on the streets of Tehran Iranians are dying. Who are they killed by? They are killed by their own government. They are not being killed by somebody else. They are not being killed by outside forces. They are being killed by their own government because they want freedom.
    How can we tolerate that government? What happened to the Iranian revolution? What happened when the shah was thrown out? One dictator was thrown out with the intention that the aspirations of that nation would be met, but look at what has happened.
    What is even more disturbing is the current president has absolutely no qualms about killing people, in suppressing them. If he calls himself a democrat or a custodian of the great Persian culture, then why would he not listen to his own people? This is a president who has, in my opinion, let down not only his country but the Persian culture that everybody around the world respects. It is, indeed, a very big tragedy in that country.
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Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP):  
    Mr. Chair, I wanted to ask the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas and Consular Affairs earlier about consular services in Iran. She talked about there being consular services in 260 locations and over 600 cases per day. I am trying to find out how many cases there would be in Iran on a daily basis over the past year. I do not expect the member is going to be able to provide the answer tonight, but if he could get it in the next day or two, that would be fine.
    The parliamentary secretary is probably aware of the report from the Subcommittee on International Human Rights on Iran. The report has been out since December 2010 and has a list of 24 recommendations on what the Government of Canada should be doing regarding the Iranian situation. As we know, the situation is changing on a daily basis.
    I would ask the parliamentary secretary whether the government has fulfilled these recommendations, which ones it has accomplished and which ones it is currently working on?
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Mr. Deepak Obhrai:  
    Mr. Chair, I will get the information for the hon. member on how many Iranian consular cases there are.
    As a person who was formerly in charge in consular cases, I can say that Iran is one of the most difficult places to deal with consular issues because the Government of Iran does not respect the rights of its own citizens. I will get back to him on that issue.
     I would remind all Canadians that this government has, on a consistent basis, stood up at the United Nations to condemn Iran. We have worked very hard to ensure the United Nations’ resolution condemns Iran on its human rights violations. This government has been very successful in getting the UN General Assembly to pass resolutions condemning Iran on its human rights record.
    We put in a tremendous amount of diplomatic effort. We worked very hard. We called on our friends. We are very pleased that year after year we get our opinion out to the world. The regime in Iran should be ashamed of its record.
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Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):  
    Mr. Chair, does the parliamentary secretary know what the government’s actions and plans are relating to the persecuted Baha’i community in Iran. As he knows, there are certain actions that the United Nations can take?
     Since the 1980s, over 200 Baha’i members have been executed, thousands have been arrested, detained and interrogated, and tens of thousands have been deprived of jobs, pensions and educational opportunities. Their holy places have been confiscated, vandalized and destroyed.
    A simple example is that the instruction is not to allow people into universities if they are Baha’i, which is totally against the UN declaration on human rights, which Iran professes to uphold.
    I am just wondering about the government’s actions and proposed actions.
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Mr. Deepak Obhrai:  
    Mr. Chair, the member has highlighted exactly what I have been talking about. The Baha’i community are Iranian citizens. The government is suppressing its own citizens. Suppressing the Baha’i is suppressing Iran’s own citizens. This is how bad the government is.
    That is why we have, time after time, year after year, at the UN General Assembly, raised the issue of Iran’s human rights record. The member has highlighted, very rightly, this issue. I think we should be speaking very strongly against the Government of Iran because it exports terrorism to Lebanon and it supports Hezbollah. However, that is not the issue.
    The biggest issue is that the Iranian government suppresses its own citizens, including its own citizens, the Baha’i, as the member pointed out. That government should be condemned in no uncertain terms.
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Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, CPC):  
    Mr. Chair, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague on the very high level tone of his comments.
    He has made it very clear, as all members have this evening, that there is a fundamental distinction between the Iranian regime and the Iranian people. So often we talk about condemning Iran or any other country where the regime has been acting in a manner unfitting a national government.
     The important point is that the Iranians themselves are the victims, including the Persian people, the ethnic majority within the country. Although the minorities are oppressed, the oppression that occurs of individuals who are opponents to the regime, who are challenging the regime or who are seeking more freedom is occurring as much to Persians as to any other group.
     I appreciate both that colleague and all colleagues for having stressed that it is a regime here that is acting in such a terrible manner, not a people.
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Mr. Deepak Obhrai:  
    Mr. Chair, the hon. member is the chair of the committee that did the human rights study on Iran. The recommendations that have come from his committee to my committee of foreign affairs are highly appreciated and respected.
    The hon. member is absolutely right when he says that the whole world knows about this. One of the biggest tragedies is when a government in power tries to stay in power by oppressing its own people. We can look at what happened in Egypt where all those years of that oppression is gone.
    It is important to recognize that we cannot suppress the legitimate rights of the people. In Iran, people will die for their rights and they will die for the rights of their children to speak and have freedom.
    We must recognize and salute these martyrs on the streets of Tehran today who are fighting this oppressive regime. We should stand up for those protesters who are seeking nothing but the basic freedom all Canadians enjoy. That is all they want and they deserve our support.