Canada Commends Bravery of Iranians

June 15, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement with regard to the Iranian presidential election of June 14, 2013:

“In the lead-up to the presidential election, the Iranian regime silenced all open, meaningful discussion of key issues that affect ordinary citizens and denied Iranians the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

“The Iranian regime also carefully managed the selection of presidential candidates by allowing only regime-friendly candidates to seek the presidency. Of the 686 candidates who tried to register as presidential candidates, only eight were permitted to run.

“With Iran’s opposition leaders in jail and their supporters having been denied the ability to coordinate since June 2009, none of the eight regime-approved candidates represents a real alternative for Iranian voters. The person tagged to replace Ahmadinejad will simply be another of Ayatollah Khamenei’s puppets in the tragic and dangerous pantomime that is life for all Iranians.

“Canada commends the courage of the Iranian people who expressed their aspiration to freedom in the face of the ruthless suppressions. Given the regime’s manipulation of the collective will and democratic process, the results of the June 14 vote are effectively meaningless.

“Canada continues to stand with Iranians who are working on the ground, pushing for meaningful reforms and respect for basic rights. Canada is proud to support projects that expand opportunities for Iranians to freely express their views, including the University of Toronto’s Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran and the Pulse of Iran (Nabz-e Iran) project.

"While we long ago lost faith in the regressive and hollow Iranian regime, we have not lost faith in the Iranian people.”

A backgrounder follows.

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The Iranian regime continues to invest in an expanding apparatus of repression. Under the authority of the Supreme Leader, the regime uses violence, intimidation, intelligence, surveillance and propaganda in an attempt to suppress opposition and manipulate the Iranian people. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) plays an increasingly dominant role throughout the country, reflecting the growing militarization of the Islamic Republic.

All of the regime’s repressive tools have been fully deployed in the context of the 2013 presidential election out of fear of the opposition movement. The Islamic Republic of Iran Police (NAJA), Iran’s national police force, is the first line of defence against opposition, headed by Commander Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam and his deputy commander, Ahmad Reza Radan. Alongside the police, the paramilitary Basij forces, headed by Mohammad Reza Naghdi, enforce ideological alignment through harassment, intimidation and violence. In the event of unrest, Revolutionary Guard units across the country are poised to reinforce the NAJA and the Basij: if opposition supporters rally in large numbers in Tehran’s Azadi Square, they will face the IRGC’s Seyed al-Shuhada Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General Ali Nasiri, and Mohammad Rasool Allah Brigade, under Brigadier General Mohsen Kazemini.

The regime’s intelligence and propaganda efforts have also grown more aggressive, with massive investment made in monitoring and controlling the Internet—and ultimately replacing it with an alternative completely closed off from the outside world. Heydar Moslehi, Iran’s Minister of Intelligence and Security, and Hossein Tayeb, head of the Revolutionary Guard’s intelligence branch, command vast, overlapping and competing networks of agents who operate online and in every corner of Iran. In the context of the presidential election, the regime’s “cyber army” has attacked opposition websites abroad, while the Iranian Cyber Police, headed by Brigadier General Kamal Hadianfar, persecutes bloggers and ordinary Iranians who express critical views on the Internet. With opposition voices eliminated, Director General Ezzatallah Zarghami fills the silence with Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s propaganda.

All Iranians are subjected to the regime’s machinery of repression, machinery frequently used by rival regime factions against one another. But opposition figures and peaceful civil society and human rights activists are relentlessly targeted because of the fundamental challenge they pose to the regime’s legitimacy. Four years after the upheaval of the Green Movement, reformist leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi remain incommunicado under house arrest in Tehran along with their families. Mostafa Tajzdeh remains in jail after he and other reformists filed a lawsuit against several commanders of the IRGC for their alleged interference in the 2009 presidential elections. Lawyers Nasrin Sotoudeh—awarded an honorary doctorate by York University last week—and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah remain in Evin Prison for their defence of human rights. Lawyers Abdolfattah Soltani and Mohammad Seifzadeh have been repeatedly jailed for their work to defend the rights of citizens of Iran. Successive generations of student activists, such as Arash Sadeghi, Abdollah Momeni, Behareh Hedayat, Sayed Ziaoddin Nabavi and Majid Tavakoli, have been arrested, jailed, tortured or forced to flee. Women’s rights movements—notably the 2006 One Million Signatures Campaign—have been similarly targeted, dismantled or driven underground; women including Shiva Nazr-Ahari and Mahboubeh Karami remain in prison. Journalists and bloggers continue to push for freedom of expression, despite facing threats from regime authorities and arbitrary arrest: Jila Baniyaghoub, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Masoud Bastani, Foad Sadegh, Ali Ghazzali, Bahman Ahmadi-Amoyee, Isa Saharkhiz and Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki remain imprisoned today.