Tribute to Froogh and Neda Hassani
By David Kilgour
July 4, 2009
Salam Froogh Iseez,
I am standing upon the seashore.
Salam Neda Iseez,
Salam Ahmed, Ali in Ashraf and Sara
Ashraf Salam ,
Our Beloved Froogh and Neda
Someone said at the service for Froogh earlier this week that "the sky should cry for Froogh". Another said that Froogh is the last person who should be leaving us now. Sara just mentioned her passionate laugh.
Many of us have fond and deep memories of both Froogh and Neda. As mentioned a few days ago, it seems like only yesterday when Froogh, Ahmed and others of us were driving to Montreal to catch the Transat flight to Paris. Froogh and Ahmed told many stories about their three children.
Unfortunately, it was not my good fortune to know Neda well except when she was once my brilliant interpreter in Ottawa at the age of about twelve at a protest about Iran's regime in the 1980s. From everything her family and many others have said, she was an extraordinary person. An official of this large cemetery said last year that no-one buried here receives more attention and continuing visits than Neda. No doubt, it will now be Froogh and Neda, who will have many visits.
On June, 17th, 2003, Jacques Chirac committed one of the worst errors of his presidency. He sent approximately 1300 armoured police with guns to the home of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, outside Paris to arrest her and about 150 others. The French courts have since invalidated this state violence and found entirely in Mrs. Rajavi's favour.
The victims of that tragic French error included Neda, who unfortunately judged it necessary to sacrifice her young life to protest Chirac's abuse of his office.
The government of Canada initiated the successfully-passed UN General Assembly resolution in both 2007 and 2008, which drew world attention to numerous human rights abuses in Iran. Some of you helped get it passed in New York in both years.
Courageous People of Iran
Hundreds of thousands have participated in defiant demonstrations across Iran since the June 12th election. There have also been rallies around the world, including our one near Paris that drew 90,000 protesters, against widespread election fraud and the fist of a regime unleashing terror.
Iran is a vitally important country to the world for many economic, geographic and security reasons. Its written culture is thousands of years old; it has a large and youthful population, with almost two-thirds of Iranians under the age of 30.
What has transpired in the country in recent weeks is home-grown - the brave Iranian people should be applauded for trying to establish good governance. They might not succeed this time, but the momentum for change, for greater freedom, is rising and cannot be stopped for much longer.
The international community must consider with great care its role in the future of Iran. Western governments should look for ways to be supportive without attempting to co-opt this movement to revolt by many Iranians into their own agendas.
Democracy will come to Iran; it will come not because of international agendas, but because the people of Iran want it and are prepared to sacrifice for it. From all indications, even if the regime survives a few more months or longer, its legitimacy among the Iranian people is finished, mostly by its corruption and three decades of savage brutality to its own people.
To its credit, the Harper government has taken a firm stand against the terror of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad. But we must do more.
We should support the demand of the Iranian opposition PMOI for a nuclear-weapons-free Iran and equal rights for women and minority ethnocultural communities and religions. Canada should encourage separation of church and state, instituting the rule of law and establishing independent judges, representative democracy and good relations with Iran's neighbours and the world. A first step here would be to follow the lead of the 27 EU countries in removing the PMOI from the list of terrorist organizations.
As well, Canada could propose additional UN sanctions against Iran's government until an election can be held with sufficient independent monitoring to provide a fair process.
We must all keep in mind these ongoing terrible realities and their implications for world peace. This violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects freedom of religion, and a host of other international covenants.
An open letter to Prime Minister Harper has been drafted and is available here today. I encourage you to add your signature in support.
The Fighting Spirit of Froogh and Neda Lives on
We are all here today to honour Froogh and Neda.
We are all certain that they are in a better place. Permit me to read a short poem by Henry Van Dyke as a tribute to the undying fighting spirit and enduring legacy of our dear friends Froogh and Neda.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says;
"There, she is gone!"
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she
left my side and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, "There, she is gone!"
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout;
"Here she comes!"
And that is dying. "
And Froogh and Neda live on!
God bless Froogh and Neda.