• The truth is that the Rouhani administration has not been any more "moderate" than its predecessor, the Ahmadinejad administration. If anything, it is worse. The rate of executions, for instance, has increased even more alarmingly.

There is a common saying, "If you want to tell a big lie and not be caught at it, don't tell a complete lie; rather, tell two-third lies and one-third truth, for that way the crust of truth will cover the core of lie." That is exactly what Saeed Kamali Dehghan did when he wrote about the situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran under President Rouhani. In his latest article, published on May 15, 2014 in the prestigious Guardian, he claims that "Canada is getting it wrong on Iran;" and to prove that claim, he constructs a clever narrative that suits his aim much more than it conforms to reality.

He states that Canada broke off diplomatic relations with the Tehran regime, and claims that this means Canada, in a pro-Israeli move, has toughened its stance on Iran. What he does not say is that Canada has had no formal relations with the Islamic Republic for a long time. There was effectively no contact since the Canadian ambassador was expelled from Tehran in 2007. That expulsion came after Canada successively rejected the two individuals the Islamic Republic had nominated for the post of ambassador to Ottawa – both had apparently been involved in seizing the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and taking its diplomats hostage.

Pictured at right, Iran's smiling President Hassan Rouhani. At left, his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"Kind words, a smile and a charm offensive are not a substitute for real action." — Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Since 2007, each country's mission in the other country has been headed, at Iran's insistence, by a chargé d'affaires rather than an ambassador, and relations have been drastically circumscribed. However, this was not the end: Canada later decided unilaterally to shut down the Islamic Republic's embassy and expel its diplomats due to strong allegations of espionage and sabotage against these diplomats.

Iranian activists in Canada, for their part, have been asking Ottawa to expel the Islamic Republic's diplomats since 2003, when the Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was murdered in a prison in Iran. They asked again in 2009, when the regime in Tehran stepped up its efforts to crack down on the protesters after the rigged presidential elections.

Kamali Dehghan also claims that while other Western countries seem to have seized upon the opportunity to engage with the "moderate" President Rouhani, Canada is doing exactly the opposite and instead is siding with "dodgy exiled groups" such as the MEK and "rightwing Israelis." As such, he not only attributes all those Iranians in Canada who are fighting against the tyranny of the Islamic Republic to the causes of the MEK and supposedly "rightwing Israelis," but also tries very hard to convince the reader that Canada is wrong not to accept Rouhani as a moderate.

The truth is, however, that the Rouhani administration has not been any more "moderate" than its predecessor, the Ahmadinejad administration, within Iran. If anything, it is worse. While Iran initially had the highest per capita execution rate in the world prior to Rouhani's taking office, the rate of executions has increased even more alarmingly under his rule. More than 600 executions have been carried out since he took office in August 2013 – with as many as 20 executions alone during the week of Rouhani's "charm offensive" at the United Nations.

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Iran, has thoroughly documented the horrific treatment the Iranian prisoners endure. According to his report: physical torture, including beating, whipping and assault occurs in 100% of the cases; sexual torture, including rape, molestation, and violence to genitals, occurs in 60% of the cases; and psychological and environmental torture, such as solitary confinement, are also prevalent.

One recent shocking example of the rampant violence perpetrated against the Iranian prisoners was the brutal raid by the prison guards against the Ward 350 Evin Prison inmates on April 17, 2014. Rouhani has not only remained silent about the crimes committed in Ward 350, he promoted Head of the Iran Prisons Organization, Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, to the position of Director General of the Justice Department in Tehran Province.

According to Dr. Shaheed's recent testimony, there are presently at least 895 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners in Iran. Among them are political activists, religious practitioners, human rights defenders, civic activists, student activists, journalists, labor activists and other civil society activists. And most of the opposition activists imprisoned before Rouhani became president are also still incarcerated.

As for tolerance, despite President Rouhani's initial promises to ensure greater tolerance of religious minorities in Iran, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, recently issued a fatwa calling on Iranians to avoid any interactions with members of the Baha'i faith. Nevertheless, the persecution of the Baha'is continues under Rouhani even more thoroughly than before. A number of Baha'is have recently been murdered; a larger number expelled from work and school, as well as sent to prison, and the old Baha'i cemetery in Shiraz has been razed to ground by bulldozers.

In the meantime, the Islamic Republic also incites hatred and violence against other religious and ethnic minorities, and violates their political, social, religious, economic, cultural, linguistic and educational rights. Balochis, Kurds, Arabs, Azeris, and Christians have recently been imprisoned on spurious charges such as "spreading corruption on earth."

Although Rouhani speaks eloquently about gender equality, women continue to face widespread and systematic discrimination in education, employment, state benefits, family relations and access to justice. Journalists are still prosecuted under Rouhani. Lesbian and gay people also continue to be victims of discrimination and violence under Rouhani.

We just wanted to bring these facts to Mr. Kamali Dehghan's attention so that he will know, in case he does not know, that this is why Canada is not fooled by the Islamic Republic and warns that "kind words, a smile and a charm offensive are not a substitute for real action." In the end, we must congratulate Mr. Kamali Dehghan for his clever choice of words throughout his recent article that casts reality in such a misleading light.

Just to mention one case, when he says that "Zahra Kazemi died while in jail in Iran under torture because of a skull fracture," he attempts to downplay that Kazemi was indeed ruthlessly raped and then killed in prison under torture -- a murder committed by Tehran's Chief Prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, who struck her on the head and thereby caused the fatal skull fracture. No need to mention, of course, that he got away with it.

  • Dr. Avideh Motmaen-Far, Journalist, Political Activist,Toronto
  • Shabnam Assadollahi, Human Rights Activist, Freelance Journalist, Ottawa
  • Dr. Ahmad Mostafalou, Political Activist, Montreal
  • Afshin Afshin Jam, Human Rights and Political Activist, Vancouver
  • Shadi Paveh, Human Rights Activist, Ottawa
  • Sima Tajdini, Human Rights Activist, Toronto
  • Mehrdad Rahbar, Human Rights Activist, Artist, Vancouver
  • Marie-France DelBorrello, Human Right Activist, Vancouver
  • Mehran Mahboobi, Workers Rights Activist, Toronto
  • Cyrus Assadi, Retired Engineer, Ottawa
  • Soheyla Dorostkar, Human Rights Activist, Ottawa
  • Dr. Nouri Assemi, Ottawa
  • Dr. Manouchehr Assemi, Ottawa
  • Nina Taban, Toronto
  • Shahbaz Sobhani, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Parivash Zati,Retired Teacher, Toronto
  • Shahrzad Haddadi, Retired Nurse, Ottawa
  • Mehran Amiri, Human Rights Activist, Vancouver:
  • Shohreh Ghanbari, Artist, Human Rights Activist, Vancouver
  • Moe Eskandarpour, Human Right Activist, Vancouver
  • Mehrdad Amiri, Human Right Activist, Montreal
  • Shirin Mehrbod, Singer, Human Right Activist, Montreal
  • Taha Hassaniani, Journalist, Political Analyst, Toronto
  • Mansoureh Nasserchian, Political Activist, Radio Producer, New Brunswick
  • Hamid Ghahramani, Political Activist, Toronto
  • Follow Shabnam Assadollahi on Twitter

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