By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 0 Comments
The Iran Tribunal — a sort of people’s truth commission that doesn’t have any legal standing — has released an interim judgment following its investigation into the massacre of political prisoners by the new Islamic Republic of Iran during the 1980s.
Conceived by victims of the Iranian regime and their relatives, the tribunal was established in 2007 and heard from its final witnesses this month in The Hague. Iran was invited to take part but did not respond.
The interim report concludes:
There are six forms of gross human rights abuses to which the evidence presented to the Truth Commission and this Tribunal point incontrovertibly: murder; torture, unjust imprisonment; sexual violence; persecution and enforced disappearance. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 9:54 PM - 0 Comments
No, I’m not talking about Quebecois nationalist Abbé Lionel Groulx — though that would also be a good question. As near as I can tell, Quebec hasn’t named anything after the Jew-hating priest for several decades. And — who knows? — maybe renaming the Montreal metro station after someone who didn’t admire Benito Mussolini might lead to Quebeckers wearing turbans or some other calamity.
I’m talking about Emily Murphy, one of the so-called “Famous Five,” who launched a case seeking to prove that women were “persons” and could therefore sit in the Senate. Her image, in statue form or on murals, blights Parliament Hill and several other locales across Canada. This month Canada announced she would appear on our new ePassport alongside Terry Fox.
Murphy might have believed that women were persons, but she wasn’t so sure about pretty much anyone who wasn’t as lily-white as her: Mexicans, Chinese, Greeks. Don’t even get her started on the “Negros.” She was a racist. So were a lot of people early last century. But, as Mark Bourrie explains in a recent essay, Murphy took her bigotry to strange and creepy extremes.
Her 1922 book The Black Candle revealed an international conspiracy of non-whites who had banded together to corrupt the “purity” of the white race with the help of drugs. Known as “The Ring,” this clandestine network was relentlessly working to turn virtuous British-Canadians into sex slaves and drug addicts. Murphy’s solution to the threat non-whites posed was to deport them.
It’s unclear if Murphy actually believed her own bunk, or reasoned that the the gravity of the threat posed by non-whites in Canada justified peddling lies. A psychologist might have something to say about her fascination with dark and dangerous foreigners seducing innocent white women like her. Here’s Bourrie describing her best-selling book:
[A]nother picture shows the natural progression of The Ring’s victims: a fully-clothed white woman reclines with shirtless black man. The caption reads: “When she acquires the habit, she does not know what lies before her; later she does not care.”
Opposite page 49, there’s a picture of a dark-skinned man and white woman, posed together, with opium paraphernalia in front of them. The caption says: “Once a woman has started on the trail of the poppy, the sledding is very easy and downgrade all the way.”
Happily, the Canadian government didn’t take Murphy’s advice on ethnic cleansing. But, according to Bourrie, Canada can thank Murphy for our 90-year ban on cannabis.
Enjoy your new passport.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 2:12 PM - 0 Comments
Barack Obama enters tonight’s debate on foreign policy in decent shape. As of July, voters perceived him as stronger than Mitt Romney when it comes to defending America from terrorism; foreign policy in general; and judgment in a crisis.
Though these numbers may have changed in the last three months, Obama, I think, enjoys some of the lustre that comes from being the commander-in-chief. But his record abroad is uneven.
Let’s start with the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — because that’s where Obama will start and finish tonight. Someone needs to remind the President that he wasn’t on the helicopter that flew into Abbottabad. He made a risky decision that paid off. It was the right call, and he deserves credit it for it. The bravery — and while we’re at it, can someone please tell Joe Biden this? — was shown by the commandos on the mission, not Barack Obama. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 3:12 PM - 0 Comments
The flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran today flies on the grounds of its former embassy, which was shut down last month. It had been removed in September, following Canada’s decision to shutter the embassy.
By Michael Petrou - Friday, October 5, 2012 at 8:16 AM - 0 Comments
It depends, of course, on whom you ask.
Members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are uniformly pleased. They were persecuted for decades and now are running the country — an outcome that may be less of a prize that it initially appears, given the economic mess that Egypt is in. One senior Muslim Brotherhood member told me that Khairat el-Shater, the party’s first choice as candidate for president, looked visibly relieved when he learned the High Election Commission had rejected his candidacy.
I met Tamar Ommar, a longtime Muslim Brotherhood supporter and member of its youth committee, at a government-sponsored celebration in the courtyard of Cairo’s Saladin Citadel, an imposing fortress that towers over the city. They were marking the anniversary of Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem some 800 years ago. Khaled Mashal, head of Hamas’s political bureau, was a guest of honour.
Ommar, gregarious and cheerful, was thrilled to be in the Citadel. His uncle, he said, had been held in its prison, along with many other Muslim Brotherhood members. Ommar had been imprisoned, “a little time.” His longest stint in jail was 55 days. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 5:37 AM - 0 Comments
Mehdi Hashemi, son of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Rasfanjani, last month returned to Iran from Britain, where he was studying at the University of Oxford, and was promptly arrested. He is still in detention.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 7:37 PM - 0 Comments
In Cairo tonight, several hundred protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of Parliament, to voice their fears that Egypt’s Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly is creating a constitution that will roll back personal freedoms and especially oppress women.
A draft of the proposed constitution would limits women’s rights to those that do not conflict with the Islamist members’ interpretation of Muslim law.
Many on the streets tonight were also at Tahrir Square during the massive demonstrations that eventually toppled former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak last year. Some were still proud that their revolution had made it possible for them to continue to dissent so loudly. But most were also angry and frustrated that a renewed fight was necessary against a Muslim Brotherhood-led government that was born from their struggle against Mubarak’s dictatorship more than a year ago. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 8:47 PM - 0 Comments
Iran’s English language propaganda arm Press TV has a report on the expelled Iranian diplomats. Ehsan Mohammadi, former president of the Iranian Cultural Association of Carleton University, is among them. My favourite clip, though, is of the young boy wearing a T-shirt that appears to be emblazoned with a stylized American flag. You can see him about 11 seconds in.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 4:30 PM - 0 Comments
Iran’s embassy staff departed Ottawa at 10 o’clock this morning on a charter flight to Tehran. The Iranian government has planned an airport welcome reception for the diplomats upon their arrival.
Among those leaving is Hamid Mohammadi, Iran’s cultural counselor, and his son, Ehsan, who was president of the Iranian Cultural Association of Carleton University.
Hamid Mohammadi’s house at 1284 Prince of Wales has been put up for sale. A friend of the diplomat was removing bags of garbage from the property this morning.
But not all embassy material and diplomats’ belongings are leaving Canada. Some have been shipped to the Iranian Cultural Centre at 2 Robinson Avenue in Ottawa. This centre functioned as a satellite wing of the Iranian embassy. It was run by Hamid Mohammadi, and embassy events were held there. A phone call to the cultural centre could be answered by someone at the official Iranian embassy on Metcalfe Street. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Monday, September 10, 2012 at 1:19 PM - 0 Comments
Even before Iranian diplomats were ordered to leave Canada on Friday, they weren’t allowed to do much while here. Canada’s relations with Iran were constrained by Ottawa’s “Controlled Engagement Policy,” limiting official contact to discussions on human rights; Iran’s “role in the region”; and the case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian journalist who was murdered in Iranian custody in 2003. Iran was also officially forbidden from opening consulates and cultural centres outside Ottawa.
There were no bilateral trade deals to negotiate, no intelligence to share, no joint military exercises to plan. Canada and Iran did not even exchange ambassadors. Iranian diplomats were here, in theory, to process visa applications and otherwise help Iranians in Canada obtain government documents And yet Iran posted 17 accredited diplomats to Ottawa, whose numbers were likely swollen by local staff. That’s a lot of people stamping passports.
But of course Iran’s aspirations in Canada were much more expansive. Through its embassy, and the “cultural centre” within it, Iran aggressively reached out to the Iranian diaspora, as well as other sympathetic Muslims in Canada — often flouting Canada’s controlled engagement policy in the process. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
Yesterday I received the following email from Kevin Bourne, “communications and policy adviser” for Senator Don Meredith, regarding my article about the senator’s attendance at an Iranian embassy reception at Ottawa’s City Hall:
I’m contacting you in response to your article regarding Senator Meredith’s appearance at the Iranian Cultural Centre event last week. We have some concerns with the way you’ve spun the facts about the event. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Conservative Senator Don Meredith was the guest of honour at an Iranian embassy reception at Ottawa’s City Hall on Saturday.
The embassy rented space in the main atrium of City Hall for a Persian cultural exhibition. Books, musical instruments, photographs and art were displayed. A video in the background showed Western tourists in Iran marveling at how friendly everybody is. The event was open to the public but does not appear to have been advertised.
Food was served late in the afternoon. Then guests were ushered into the Council chamber, where an Iranian flag stood next to the Canadian one, to listen to speeches and watch another movie. Don Meredith delivered the opening remarks.
The senator began with a few words in Farsi, and joked that his French was even worse. He welcomed guests from the “Soviet” embassy and praised art as a universal language. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Friday, August 17, 2012 at 6:01 AM - 0 Comments
It’s probably a good thing that Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs wasn’t in charge of covertly supporting the Afghan mujahedeen during the Cold War. Given DFAIT’s clumsy attempts to channel aid to Syria this week, I’m not even sure an underage teenager hanging around the LCBO parking lot should trust Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to secretly buy him booze.
Last weekend, Canada announced it was providing $2 million to Canadian Relief for Syria, little-known group with no previous international aid experience and no charitable status in Canada. The original press release said the aid would “provide medical supplies for doctors and health-care providers within Syria’s borders.”
The announcement struck a non-partisan tone: “‘Canada calls on all sides of the conflict to immediately allow humanitarian access so that assistance reaches those most in need,’ said [International Cooperation Minister Julian] Fantino.”
The website of Canadian Relief for Syria also claimed neutrality: “CRS is a non-political, non-denominational, non-governmental organization, set up to co-ordinate help and support to Syrian families.” Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 11:41 AM - 0 Comments
An Iranian religious education organization under the ultimate supervision of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is attempting to establish a school in Montreal — violating Canadian regulations about what Iran is allowed to do in this country, and worrying expatriate Iranians who fear Iran’s growing influence here.
The Rastegaran organization runs a network of private schools across Iran. Its website lists six international schools, including one in Montreal.
The Montreal school is not yet open, and it is not clear what concrete steps have been taken towards that goal. An August 5 note on the Rastegaran website suggests there was a desire to open the school by September 1. A source in Iran familiar with Rastegaran told someone making inquiries on behalf of Maclean’s that money has been allocated for a school in Montreal.
Last weekend, the Rastegaran schools’ director, cleric Hojatoleslam Val Moslemin Meshkaat, was in Montreal. Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, chargé d’affaires at Iran’s embassy in Ottawa, and cultural counselor Hamid Mohammadi both traveled to Montreal to meet with him.
By Michael Petrou - Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 10:00 PM - 0 Comments
Canada is giving two million dollars to a group collecting money on behalf of a charity whose Pakistan office was once run by alleged al-Qaeda financier Ahmed Said Khadr, the late father of Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.
On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced the donation to “Canadian Relief for Syria.” The group is not a registered charity, though its website says it is in the process of obtaining Canada Revenue Agency registration.
In the meantime, anyone wishing to donate to Canadian Relief for Syria is directed by its website to Human Concern International, an Ottawa-based charity. “Founded on Islamic principles of charity and goodwill to humanity, HCI has always believed in helping the needy regardless of their race, nationality or religion,” its website says.
Human Concern International was established in 1980 to help Afghans who had fled to Pakistan to escape the war in their home country.
In 1995, Osama bin Laden told an Egyptian interviewer that Human Concern International funded an al-Qaeda charitable front called “Blessed Relief.” Khadr was in charge of Human Concern International’s Pakistan office at this time. Khadr was arrested on charges of helping an Islamist bombing attack against the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan but was later released following an appeal by then-prime minister Jean Chrétien.
Khadr died in 2003 in the company of Taliban and al-Qaeda members, when Pakistani troops attacked their South Waziristan safe house. An al-Qaeda website profiling “120 Martyrs of Afghanistan” described him as an al-Qaeda leader and praised him for “tossing his little child [Omar] in the furnace of the battle.”
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 11:56 AM - 0 Comments
I get tired of writing about gun control even before I start typing. It is probably the one topic in Canadian public discourse that is most saturated by emotion and bereft of evidence-based arguments. But some contributions to the debate require a response.
This morning we have the Toronto Star weighing in on Monday night’s Danzig Street shooting, in which two people were killed and another 24 were injured when two men opened fire at each other at a neighbourhood barbeque. All the facts are not yet known, but police suspect gang involvement.
The Star’s solution, according to its paper editorial headline, is that it’s “High time to ban guns.” The editorial continues to note that witnesses should come forward. “But society as a whole can do more by banning private ownership of handguns… Indeed it’s hard to imagine how this could have happened at all if the shooters didn’t have access to easily concealed handguns.
“It’s too early to say where the firearms used in the latest bloodshed came from. But there’s no doubt that handguns — legal and otherwise — are all too common and easily obtained. Any reduction in the supply available to criminals would help…
“As of the end of May, there were almost 700,000 legally registered handguns in this country — a sizeable arsenal waiting to be stolen by criminals. While this isn’t the main origin of firepower, private collections represent a significant source that should be shut down.”
Where to begin? Let’s start with a plea for facts. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Monday, July 16, 2012 at 6:01 AM - 0 Comments
I don’t know about you, but for me nothing makes waiting in the sweltering heat for a buffet to open more bearable than listening to a speech by Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
And so it came to pass on Friday, when French Ambassador Phillipe Zeller invited various dignitaries and journalist freeloaders to the embassy to help celebrate Bastille Day — held to commemorate the storming of the Bastille in the early days of the French Revolution.
Anthems were played; Zeller gave a speech; then MacKay took the podium. He praised France, praised our troops, praised the enduring ties between Canada and France. So far, so many minutes until roast beef.
Then MacKay got historical. He talked about the impact the storming of the Bastille had, not just on France but the world. All true. And these crêpe appetizers are delicious.
MacKay should have stopped there. He didn’t. In fact, he said, as Canada marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, we should recall that things might have turned out differently without French help to Canada.
As students of history, as well as anyone — well, almost anyone — who has walked through the new War of 1812 exhibition at the Canadian War Museum, knows, France did play a major, if indirect, role in the war of 1812. Unfortunately, it was by waging total war against Britain, thereby preventing it from sending much in the way of troops and hardware to Canada. France, in other words, was on America’s side, not ours.
It will take some creative spinning to argue MacKay had a clue what he was talking about. French Canadians fought hard and well against the American invasion of Canada, notably at the Battle of the Chateauguay, a decisive Canadian and British victory. But these men were generations removed from France and showed it little loyalty. The biggest effect France had on their lives was that when Napoleon took on Britain, America felt emboldened to go to war against them.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
Last month I wrote about Iranian efforts to reach out to ex-pat Iranians and other Muslims in Canada, through its embassy, front organizations, student group, and funding a lavish “student conference” for those who belong to approved “cultural communities.”
My story included reference to a Farsi-language interview given by Hamid Mohammadi, Iran’s cultural counselor in Ottawa, to an Iranian government website in which he talks about the embassy’s outreach program, which includes establishing new cultural centres, sending students and professors to Iran, and equipping Canadian universities with Farsi books.
In the last two days, the Ottawa Citizen and National Post have run splashy front-page articles based on Mohammadi’s interview. These have included a healthy dose of torque. Iran does engage in espionage in Canada, and is particularly interested in the loyalties of the Iranians here, who are watched and intimidated. Those who openly oppose the regime in Tehran risk endangering their families back home. My article gave an example of a young man who protested an embassy-funded event at Carleton University and subsequently had a court summons delivered for him at a relative’s home in Tehran. But for Postmedia papers to frame Mohammadi’s remarks as essentially an admission that Tehran is recruiting spies and potential terrorists is a stretch. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Monday, July 9, 2012 at 9:36 AM - 0 Comments
Those calling for Canada and other outside forces to quit Afghanistan should at least acknowledge who’s waiting to take our place:
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 2:15 PM - 0 Comments
An Iranian embassy-sponsored student conference originally scheduled for July has been postponed, and a Canadian government-fiunded research council has ended its participation in the event.
The “Iranian Students Convention,” funded by the Iranian embassy and open to students who are members of a “cultural community,” was to take place July 13-15 at the NAV Centre in Cornwall. It was supposedly planned by the “Montreal Toheed Society,” which the conference website described as an “independent network of Iranian students.” The Toheed Society does not appear to exist beyond references on the website, which were subsequently deleted.
This morning, the NAV Centre told Maclean’s the Iranian students convention was no longer scheduled for the July 13-15 weekend. Asked if the date had been changed, the centre said the conference organizers had asked them not to reveal anything other than a phone number, which turned out to be for Iran’s Higher Education Advisory at the embassy in Ottawa. When Maclean’s called, a woman answering said: “I cannot give any information to you … because of the article you wrote.”
A third party who earlier called the NAV Centre was told the conference date had been moved to September 14-16.
Serge Villemure, director of the Scholarships and Fellowships division at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, was to deliver a presentation at the conference in July. Several Iranian-Canadian academics wrote to ask him not to do so. Today NSERC told Maclean’s it “will not participate in the Iranian Students Convention in September.”
Here is the letter sent to Villemure: Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 12:41 PM - 0 Comments
UPDATE (JULY 6, 2012): AS I SUSPECTED, THE CORRESPONDENCE I ORIGINALLY REPRODUCED BELOW WAS MISSING A THREAD. THERE WERE TWO INITIAL LETTERS TO CARLETON PRESIDENT ROSEANN O’REILLY RUNTE. THE MISSING ONE, DATED JULY 13, 2012, HAS NOW BEEN ADDED.
My article about a conference at Carleton University honouring the Islamic Republic of Iran’s founding dictator Ayatollah Khomeini prompted a condemnatory letter from several prominent Iranian scholars to Carleton President Roseann O’Reilly Runte, as well as responsive missives from O’Reilly Runte and from John Osborne, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
I’ve reprinted the exchanges below. Tracking the dates and salutations, it looks possible that I’m missing one of the letters. If so, its absence here is unintentional. I have also deleted email addresses and phone numbers that appeared in the email address lines, and have added the full name of recipients where they were otherwise abbreviated. Everything else is posted here verbatim.
A good chunk of the debate centres on free speech. Osborne casts himself as a defender of the principle. “It is my duty as a scholar to vehemently oppose any attempts to restrict freedom of speech, and I shall do so until my dying breath,” he writes.
As it happens, I’m a free speech fundamentalist. If Carleton students want to hold a conference praising a murderous advocate of child rape, and if the university is content to host and promote the event, that’s their right. (Under Khomeini, Iran lowered the age when a girl could be “married” to nine; and the old man himself wrote that it was permissible to receive sexual pleasure from babies.) Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
The Iranian government, through its embassy in Ottawa and various friendly or affiliated organizations, is aggressively reaching out to the Iranian diaspora in Canada, as well as to other potentially sympathetic Muslims in the country.
This July it is funding an “Iranian Students Convention” at the large and well-appointed NAV Centre in Cornwall, Ontario. According to the conference website, guests must be students and members of a “cultural community” or they will not be permitted to attend. Attendees will have their accommodation and meals paid for, as well as a portion of transportation costs.
“This platform is direly needed for achieving the ultimate goal of establishing a network of Iranian academics and professionals across Canada and more broadly across North America,” the conference website states. “Such a network will enable the Iranian academics to connect and share their knowledge and expertise to facilitate the professional growth of its members and play a leading role in serving the Iranian community abroad. This network will also help preserve and promote members’ Iranian identity and strengthen ties to their motherland.”
The website originally crediting the Montreal Toheed Society with planning the conference. This society, which was identified as “an independent network of Iranian students,” does not appear to have an online presence beyond the Cornwall conference. References to the society have now been removed from the conference website. An email and phone call to the address and number given on the conference website were not returned.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
Greece’s second attempt this year to form a government in the midst of a rapid and escalating financial crisis seems a little more likely to succeed than its first, only a month ago.
In May, legislative elections shook up the Greek parliament, pummeling PASOK, the left-leaning party that many Greeks blamed for accepting severe austerity measures as part of the 2010 bailout package with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
PASOK, together with the conservative New Democracy party, which also supported the bailout deal, earned less than one third of the vote in May. They lost ground to SYRIZA, a party originally founded as a coalition of radical leftist parties. SYRIZA, crucially, opposed the bailout package, and its success brought worries that Greece would reject austerity and leave the euro — possibly triggering the eventual collapse of the entire eurozone.
But none of the leading three parties was able to form a government, and so here we are again. Last weekend’s elections again failed to give any party a majority. But they did reshuffle power. New Democracy surged to 30 per cent of the popular vote. Leader Antonis Samaras says he will seek changes to the bailout deal. He’s not proposing scrapping it. PASOK continued its decline, but combined the two traditionally powerful parties will likely be able to form a government. Alexis Tsipras, leader of SYRIZA, has ruled out joining a coalition – opting instead, as he put it, for strong and responsible opposition. This is the right choice. His party has firmly opposed bailout conditions. Comprising for power would stain its integrity, and would besides leave more radical and less responsible parties to fight that corner.