Salam Froogh Iseez, Salam Neda Iseez, Salam Ahmed, Ali in Ashraf and Sara;
Dustan Salam, Iran Salam, Ashraf Salam,
All of us have special memories of Froogh and Neda.It seems like only yesterday when Froogh, Ahmed, Sara and others of us were driving to Montreal to catch the flight to Paris. Froogh and Ahmed told many stories about their three children.
It was not my good fortune to know Neda well. She was once my interpreter at the age of about twelve at a protest in Ottawa 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 that no-one buried here receives more attention and continuing visits than Neda. No doubt, it will now be Froogh and Neda, who have many visits.
On June, 17th, 2003, Jacques Chirac committed one of the worst errors of his presidency. He sent 1300 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, 26, who judged it necessary to sacrifice her young life to protest Chirac's abuse of his office.
Seventy Million Iranians
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.
Hundreds of thousands participated in defiant demonstrations across Iran following the June 2009 election travesty. There have also been rallies around the world, including our one last June near Paris that drew tens of thousands of protesters against the widespread election fraud and the fist of a regime unleashing terror. The rally held a few weeks ago near Paris was also important in drawing concern to Camp Ashraf.
What has transpired in Iran since the election was a home-grown cry for freedom from tyranny. The brave Iranian people should be applauded for seeking good governance. The momentum for change, for greater freedom, is rising and cannot be stopped for much longer.
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 while longer, its legitimacy among the Iranian people is finished, mostly by its corruption and three decades of inhuman brutality mostly to its own people.
Canadians and Iran
The government of Canada initiated the successfully-passed UN General Assembly resolution in 2007, 2008 and 2009, which drew world attention to numerous human rights abuses in Iran. Some of you helped get them passed in New York in all years.
This week, Canadians are trying to save the life of Sakineh Ashtiani, 43, in Iran. The regime has promised not to stone her to death, but the world wants to hear that she will not be hanged either. There is a website at: www.freesakineh.org. Please sign its petition.
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 internal movements to revolt by many Iranians into their own agendas.
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 immediately.
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 the ongoing terrible realities across Iran and their implications for world peace. Why are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects freedom of religion, and a host of other international covenants flouted virtually hourly in Iran?.
Camp Ashraf Today
Please permit me to repeat something I said last week about Camp Ashraf in Krakow, Poland, at a conference on Democratic Governance:
“How often have those struggling for the rule of law and freedom been abandoned by democratic governments in other countries because it might have cost something to help? … One-party regimes are too often praised or courted. Democracy support can get in the way of trade, investments and perceived demands of security. What price are we willing to pay for self-government and for those who strive for it despite high personal cost?
“Consider Iran whose regime uses stoning, amputation and other forms of execution against children, women and men. The mullahs seek to export their ways around the region. One example is the threat to Camp Ashraf in Iraq, which is home to 1100 women and more than 2000 men, refugees from Iran under the Fourth Geneva Convention. They are supporters or members of the PMOI/MEK (People's Mujahedeen of Iran), which all EU members removed from their terrorist lists last year, following seven European court decisions saying it cannot be considered a terrorist organization. It is unfortunately still on the terrorist lists for Canada and the US.
“The US government announced that on July 1st its military presence at Ashraf would end when its base there is transferred to Iraqi forces, which have previously attacked Ashraf under the influence of Tehran. Claiming the US will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that the government of Iraq abides by its obligations to protect the residents, it admits that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, known as UNAMI, will relocate its observing mission from Ashraf to Baghdad following the base closure. If UNAMI considers its situation unsafe once American soldiers leave, one can imagine how grave the risk is for Ashraf residents. Over 3,000 parliamentarians from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and North America have signed declarations in support of Camp Ashraf.
“This matter is time urgent; I'd request you to watch the situation carefully until the next Iraqi government, hopefully a stable and independent one, takes office so that UNAMI's monitoring team is not forced to leave Ashraf prematurely. It would be preferable to have an international force replace American soldiers at Ashraf, but soldiers are necessary for UNAMI to stay at Ashraf. “
Spirit of Froogh and Neda Continues
We are all here today to honour Froogh and Neda.
We are all certain that they are in a better place. Froogh and Neda will live in our hearts and minds forever.
God bless Froogh and Neda.