Iranian hunger strikers, at day 18, attend the solidarity event (Stell Liu/Epoch Times)
OTTAWA—A group of about 150 Iranians gathered in front of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill on Saturday to “show solidarity with the brave women of Iran and Ashraf” who have been stepping forward to declare their opposition to the fundamentalist mullah-based regime in Iran.
Iranian nationals from Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto—including ten who have been on a hunger strike for 18 days—attended the event. The hunger strikers have been assembling daily outside the U.S. Embassy to protest the withdrawal of American protection of Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
The camp, which is home to 3,5000 exiled members of the the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI) dissident group, was recently invaded by Iraqi troops who beat and shot at the unarmed residents.
While the Iraqi regime has forbidden journalists to enter the camp making it difficult to get accurate news, videotapes taken during the two-day attack attest to the brutality that resulted in nine deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Many of the injured were women who stood at the front line in an attempt to stop the Iraqi security forces, according to the protesters in Ottawa—all the more remarkable as the fundamentalist Iraqi regime does not allow women the same rights and freedoms as males.
Hunger striker Narges Ghaffari has not eaten solid food for 17 days and has lost nine kg. She explained how she admires the women who stood up for their homes in Ashraf, who tried to stop the troops, and who gave aid and shelter to those injured in the attacks on July 28 and 29.
“It gets me so emotional to see Iranian women protecting the camp or themselves, and standing up to the regime as I have seen a lot of stuff, as have other people. The fact that the women are willing to risk standing up for their country shows that the Iranian regime has no legitimacy with the people.”
The hunger strikers feel that camp residents are vulnerable to further attacks. The Iraqi government has made it clear that they want to close the camp and repatriate the residents to Iran or send them to some other country.
Iraqi officials have disputed the details surrounding the attacks, blaming rioting and snipers within the camp.
The PMOI has been designated a terrorist organization by Canada, the U.S., Iraq, and Iran. In January of this year, the European Union agreed to remove the group from its terror list. Camp Ashraf residents surrendered their weapons to U.S. forces in 2003.
Liberal MP Raymonde Folco made an impassioned speech stating that the rights of women everywhere need to be respected and that it is “important to let the people of Ashraf know that they are not alone, that they are not forgotten, that we are there to watch over them.”
She said she has written to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking them to intervene urgently to protect the camp residents.
“We have a responsibility to those people in Iran and in Ashraf to not forget them and to be with them in spirit until someone helps those helpless people in Camp Ashraf,” she said.
Honourable David Kilgour addresses the Iranians on Parliament Hill (Stell Liu/Epoch Times)
A statement from Senator Mobina Jaffer, Chair of the Canadian Committee on Women, Peace and Security from 2002-2005, was read, which said in part: “As a Muslim, I am always saddened when misogynistic ideology and the oppression of women is promoted in the name of Islam. I want to give my support to the women of Iran for opposing fundamentalism, oppression, and terrorism.”
Homa Allizadeh, a human rights activist and singer from Montreal, sang in Persian while the hunger strikers and others joined in, and later, a recording made in Camp Ashraf of the popular song “Tell Me Why” was played.
When Opera Lyra soprano Floralove Katz was introduced, she asked the hunger strikers to be seated so that they “wouldn’t exhaust themselves.” She asked the crowd to join her in singing “O Canada” and then “Where have all the flowers gone.”
Minoo Homaily spoke in Persian and recounted harrowing details of being jailed and tortured in Iran and finally escaping to Canada.
The final speaker, former MP David Kilgour, said that the “criminal operation against Ashraf residents, who are all ‘protected persons’ under the Fourth Geneva Convention, was carried out at the request of the Iranian regime’s supreme leader.”
Naghi Shafie, an Iranian supporter drove from Toronto to show his support (Stell Liu/Epoch Times)
“Those who hear what is said here today must resolve to act responsibly, whether in Baghdad, Washington, or any other capital, where human dignity counts,” he said.
Store manager Mr. Naghi Shafie and his nephew Avesta, 17, drove from Toronto to join the day of solidarity.
“I would appreciate it if Prime Minister Harper could step up Canada’s role by first of all getting them (the PMOI) off the terror list,” said Avesta.
“We hope that the efforts of the hunger-strikers has meaning, as it is a very serious thing these people are doing.”
The host gave bouquets of red roses to all the speakers “on behalf of Iranian women in Ashraf and around the world.”