Canada 1st country to recognize 1988 Iran political prisoner massacre as ‘crime against humanity’

By Sharif Behruz and Zakarya Khezeryan:

Canada’s government and opposition MPs voted on an NDP motion to condemn the massacre of thousands of political prisoners by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the summer of 1988, as a crime against humanity.  This motion was not only a step towards honouring the memory of the victims, but it led to the official recognition of September 1st as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran.

The passing of the motion on Wednesday, June 5th, on the floor of Canada’s Parliament makes Canada the first country to recognize the 1988 state-ordered execution of thousands of political prisoners in Iran as a crime against humanity.

The motion, which received unanimous consent, “is the fruit of a campaign by a loosely affiliated group of Iranian Canadians—including Toronto lawyer and human rights activist Kaveh Shahrooz, and journalist Sima Sahar Zerehi” writes MacLean’s International Affairs correspondent, Michael Petrou.

“ That, this House condemn[ing] the mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988 as a crime against humanity [not only] honours the memory of the victims buried in the mass graves at Khavaran cemetery and other locations in Iran, [but it also] establishes September 1st as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran.”—the motion read.

In a statement on the Iran Motion, MP Irwin Cotler expressed his content with the unanimous, non-partisan passing of the motion: “I am pleased that we stand together in solidarity—with Iranian Canadians – to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Iranian government’s massacre of political prisoners in 1988. Pursuant to a fatwa issued by then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian regime systematically interrogated, tortured and summarily executed thousands of political prisoners.”

The Liberal MP and former Justice Minister added that “there remains today, by conservative estimates, 2,600 political prisoners in Iran with an intensification of arrests and detentions in the run-up to the June Parliamentary elections, including: women, ethnic and religious leaders, journalists, bloggers, students, trade union leaders –in a word, the leaders of Iranian civil society – many under threat of execution.”

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Jason Kenney, the Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, also issued a statement: “We wish to extend Canada’s deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the thousands of innocents who have fallen victim to the Iranian regime, from the first days of the Islamic Revolution to the present. Canada grieves alongside all those whose loved ones suffered on the orders of Iran’s past and present rulers.”

“Canada has not forgotten that the roots of today’s appalling situation extend back to the origins of this hollow regime. The persecution of dissident voices and systematic stifling of democratic freedoms stem from the highest levels of this regressive clerical-military dictatorship and its terrorist operatives in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah.” they added.  The statement also highlighted the death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who was killed in an Iranian prison 10 years ago, this summer.

Ottawa NDP MP, Paul Dewar spearheaded the motion and jointly seconded by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler and Conservative MP James Bezan.

In a statement welcoming this brazen move by Canada’s Parliament, the highest body of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) referred to this Motion as a “protection of justice and human rights and solidarity with the freedom movement in Iran that is engaged in a tireless struggle to bring about a democratic and peaceful government.”

“Without a doubt, this move by Canada’s Parliament, and the decision of Canada’s Foreign Affairs in September of last year, in closing Iran’s embassy and expelling its diplomats from Canada is indicative of Canada’s solidarity with the democracy front in Iran in general, and Iranian Kurds in particular…” It also reminded that the Kurds of Iran and the PDKI have had the greater share of the regime’s brutality, terror and killings.

In response, Iran’s state-run Press TV described the remarks as “ridiculous” and “politically motivated”, adding the comments came as the Canadian government was facing political illegitimacy due to the country’s 2011 election fraud, quoting Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi.

Canada’s relations with Iran, troubled by the brutal death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in Evin prison in 2003, worsened in 2012 when Ottawa severed diplomatic ties and formally branded the country a state sponsor of terrorism.

 Sharif Behruz (@sharif_behruz) is the chief representative of US/Canada Foreign Affairs for the PDKI. 

Zakarya Khezeryan is an International Relations student at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.

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