Trudeau’s feminist policy does not include solidarity with Iranian women

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Canada’s feminist foreign policy under the Trudeau government does not go that far when it comes to defending the women of Iran. Over the past two weeks, Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini.

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Amini was a 23-year-old woman who was beaten and arrested by Iranian vice police for not wearing her hijab properly. She died in hospital a few days later from a fractured skull, she had fallen into a coma and never came out.

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Since then, women across Iran have been at the forefront of a protest movement defying the morality police, removing their hijabs, fighting pitched battles in the streets. The mullahs in Tehran did not rest and did not see this happening. They fought back, they repressed.

Over the weekend, Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian president promised « decisive action against those who oppose the security and peace of the country and the people ». In a televised address to the people of Iran on Wednesday, he called Amini’s death sad, but also said they would not allow the country’s security to be compromised.

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“Whoever participated and started the chaos and the riots will be held accountable,” Raisi said.

In addition to brutal police tactics on the streets, Iran is known to use sexual violence, rape, against men and women in its detention camps. A recent BBC report detailed the conditions faced by those arrested for taking part in the protests, including threats of rape.

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Canada has long had strained relations with Iran

Concretely, Canada cannot do much. We don’t have official diplomatic relations with Iran and haven’t for years. The Harper government expelled Iran’s ambassador and diplomatic corps in 2012, also closing our own embassy in Tehran amid rising tensions.

Iran used its position in Canada to spy on and intimidate Canadians of Iranian descent who had fled the regime. The Harper government also cited Iran’s support for the Syrian regime, its sponsorship of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and threats against Israel for its decision to sever ties.

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“Iran is one of the worst human rights violators in the world. It harbors and materially supports terrorist groups,” Foreign Secretary John Baird said at the time.

The Trudeau government came to power promising to restore relations, but despite some clumsy attempts, it never got much beyond lifting economic sanctions.

Now we are about to impose sanctions again, of what nature exactly remains to be seen. Although this act may seem symbolic to some, symbols matter when it comes to dictatorial regimes.

  1. In this file photo taken on September 22, 2018, members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade.

    EDITORIAL: Label Iranian security thugs as terrorists

  2. A woman holds placards in support of anti-regime protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, during a demonstration in Valletta, Malta, September 27, 2022.

    Mahsa Amini, the Iranian whose death sparked mass protests, was shy and avoided politics

  3. A photo obtained by AFP outside Iran on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 shows Iranian protesters taking to the streets of the capital Tehran in a demonstration for Mahsa Amini, days after her death in police custody.

    FATAH: Iranian women burn their hijabs — let’s show them our support

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Earlier this year, Russia used the appearance of a Canadian diplomat at a garden party as a propaganda tool at home, showing that Canadians are still dealing with Russia despite their invasion of Ukraine. Allowing any ongoing economic activity with the regime in Iran will become a similar propaganda victory for Raisi and his government.

The Trudeau government must also add the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Canada’s list of prohibited terrorist entities. At present, the IRGC’s Quds Force, a specialized force within the Guard, is listed as a terrorist entity, but not the entire IRGC.

MPs voted in 2018 to designate the IRGC as a terrorist entity, but the government never added them. Now the Liberal government says it is up to national security agencies, not politicians, to decide which groups are terrorist organizations.

This is absolutely not true, even the government website details it as a cabinet decision. The Trudeau Liberals were quick to add the Proud Boys to the banned list and take credit, they have no excuses with the IRGC.

Again, this may only be symbolic, but symbols matter in this situation.

All Canadians should stand with Iranian women at this point, including our government in Ottawa which claims to have a feminist foreign policy.

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