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Iranians cast doubt over efficiency of Canada's sanctions

Iranians cast doubt over efficiency of Canada's sanctions on Iranian authorities
MENA
5 min read
12 December, 2022
While family members of Iranian authorities and the Revolutionary Guards force freely live in and travel to Canada, ordinary Iranians blast Canada's insufficient response to human rights violations in Iran.
Iranian-Canadians and their supporters protested on the International Human Rights Day against the Iranian Islamic regime in Toronto, Canada on 10 December 2022. [Getty]

Late and slow was the Canadian government in showing support to the protestors in Iran and slapping the Iranian authority with penalties, and when Ottawa began imposing sanctions on Tehran, it went too far, sanctioning entities that did not even exist. 

On 2 December, Mélanie Joly, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced new sanctions on Iran in a short statement. 

"Canada will not stand idly by while the regime's human rights violations increase in scope and intensity against the Iranian people," read the statement.

"That is why we are imposing sanctions on an additional 4 Iranian individuals and 5 entities for their roles in the regime's gross and systematic human rights violations," the statement added.

On the statement, however, there were the names of only three individuals and three entities.

"Canadians are known to be shy and polite," Shahriar, a 47-year-old Iranian IT professional living in Toronto for the past 17 years, told The New Arab. "Maybe [Justin] Trudeau's liberal government is too shy to announce the name of the fourth individual and the other two entities," he added jokingly.

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Shahriar is one of the about 213,000 Iranians living in Canada who are not satisfied with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government responses to demonstrations in Iran, which began in mid-September following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini. 

Amini was a 22-year-old Kurdish woman arrested for allegedly not following the country's strict Islamic dress code. Her death sparked nationwide anti-establishment demonstrations, which have been brutally suppressed by the security forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

At least 458 people were killed during g the anti-establishment demonstrations, and the authorities carried out the first execution related to the protests on Thursday, vowing that more protestors would be executed.

Under this circumstance, for many Iranians, the sanctions announced by Canada seem late and inadequate, which explains why a photoshopped image went viral by Iranian users on social media showing Justin Trudeau in an IRGC olive-green uniform.

The dark humour about this image is rooted in the fact that some top brass IRGC commanders and people from the ruling circle in Iran have freely travelled to Canada, and their family members live in the North American country.

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"Everyone knows that Canada has been a safe haven for the family members of the regime officials and the IRGC people," told TNA, an Iranian PhD student living in Ottawa, who wished to remain anonymous.

"Every now and then, the name of an IRGC commander in Canada surfaces in the media, and then, the Canadian government rushes to show its commitment to Western values and human rights. This time was Sardar Talaei's turn," she added, referring to Brigadier General Morteza Talaei, a retired ultra-hardline IRGC commander whose name appeared on Canada's latest sanctions list on 2 December.

What brought Talaei to the centre of attention was not the sanctions against him but his visits and stays in Canada and a video and photos from January 2022 showing him exercising in a mixed-gym in Greater Toronto's Richmond Hill.

Talaei was Tehran police chief when Iran's infamous "Islamic morality police" was established. While he was directing Tehran police, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was killed in custody in the Iranian capital in 2003; a death which led to the official cut of political relations between Tehran and Ottawa.

"After all these years, Canada decided to ban Talaei from entering its territory. And look at thousands of ordinary Iranians who every year apply for a tourist visa to come and visit their family members in Canada, and their requests are being rejected," the PhD student added.

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The other name on Canada's latest list of sanctions that raised eyebrows was the "Javan News Agency", which Canada's Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained as "a media outlet under the Basij Cooperative Foundation". But such a news agency does not exist at all.

The closest media outlet to the name mentioned by the ministry of foreign affairs is a daily called Javan which has close ties with the IRGC and is owned by a company called Payam Avaran-e Nashr-e Rouz.

"Canada's immigration policy is based on who brings more wealth to this country, so I do not expect the Canadian government to close its doors to the IRGC commanders or the corrupt regime officers who can bring millions of dollars to this country," Shahriar, the IT expert, explained to TNA.

"But, at least, for their own sake, they can do a very simple google search before announcing an official sanction on entities in Iran. I am really curious to know who in Canada's foreign ministry is responsible for coordinating the political responses to Iran," he added.

Iranians living in Canada are not the only ones sceptical about the most recent sanctions Canada imposed on the Iranian authority. A political science academic in Tehran who was forced to retire last year told TNA that these sanctions are "just symbolic".

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"Most people who Canada's sanctions have slapped have nothing to do in Canada," said the scholar, who asked not to be named.

"The sanction on Talaei was just an exception that happened after a media fuss. However, the list of the family members of the officials and IRGC members in Canada is so long. Through their corrupt system, these people stole the money that belongs to the ordinary people and made a good life for themselves in other countries," he added.

According to this scholar, Canada could designate the IRGC, in its totality, as a 'terrorist organisation', banning any economic activities carried out by the members of this powerful entity in Iran, but instead, preferred to sanction a few IRGC individuals.

"To be realistic, politics is the science of making the most out of each situation for your benefit at an international or domestic level; it is not about ethics or morals," he continued.

"In rhetoric, Canada might talk of human rights for Iranians, but I don't buy it unless they impose the same sanctions on Israel and Saudi Arabia regarding human rights violations."

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The New Arab Staff & Agencies