Senator Segal of Canada tables the situation of the Baha’is of Iran in direct and plain words in the Canadian Senate on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011. Read full Senate transcript here, and the except about Iran is reproduced below.
Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 17
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Jaffer calling the attention of the Senate to the deteriorating human rights situation of the Baha’i people in Iran.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the inquiry placed on the Order Paper by the Honourable Senator Jaffer with respect to the circumstances faced by Baha’i citizens in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The lessons of history are not prisons that shape our choices. However, if and when those lessons are ignored, we give the worst of history, its most horrific and criminal excesses the best chance to repeat themselves at the expense of all humanity. It is in this precise context that we must look at the Islamic Republic of Iran and its treatment of its Baha’i citizens with a frank and cold eye. We must do so with the highest regard for Iran’s history, civilization and culture and with nothing but the greatest respect and regard for its people, who have the same right to freedom, economic opportunity and happiness as we have. We must also look carefully and with clarity at events within Iran, the way that government acts, its designs on genuine democrats at home and its explicit oppression of minorities within its own borders.
I will not dwell on its a historical and essentially genocidal view and purpose with respect to the Republic of Israel, not because its stance is in any way sane, but because whipping up anti-Israel hysteria and hatred has been the truck and trade of most despots, extremists, religious charlatans, dictators and other anti-Semites over the breadth of history — not only in the part of the world that Iran seeks to dominate but also elsewhere. In recent times, forces of darkness in locations as diverse as Venezuela and Malaysia have embraced this age-old and tiresome game. Going with the flow in the face of this is a reprehensible lack of spine, but as a general practice when it comes to hating Jews and Israel, it is counted upon by the common currents of fascism, communism and all the extremes on the flanks seen in many political histories. Few countries have been completely immune in the East or West, Christian, Islamic or non-denominational worlds. That excess on the part of the Islamic Republic’s supreme religious, political or Revolutionary Guard leadership is, since the days of the end of the reign of the Shah in 1979, not particularly unique, however loathsome and disreputable.
What is new and horrific is what has been done to imprison, oppress and intimidate the proponents of the Baha’i faith within Iran. Any government that would employ its hired revolutionarily guards to mow down its own citizens, who simply desired a fair count of the votes in the last general election, is capable of anything. What they have done to Iranians of the Baha’i faith speaks to the essential inhumanity and embedded intolerance that typifies this particular Iranian government’s distorted view of Islam and the manipulation of the most extreme interpretations of the Quran for its own narrow political and oppressive purposes.
History tells us something here which President Ahmadinejad and the al-Quds Brigade of the Revolutionary Guard cannot wish away. If you would oppress and kill your own people in large numbers because of their politics and religion, then when the opportunity comes to do the same in neighbouring countries or throughout a region where people of different politics or religion would oppose your domination, it is even easier for you to oppress or kill foreigners. Mr. Stalin and Mr. Hitler taught us that decades ago.
It is time that we cease the hopeful view that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s present administration is but a brief eccentric event in what should be a peaceful and constructive force in the politics of the world and its own region. There is not a shred of evidence that a truly democratic election with a truly democratic outcome will be allowed to transpire. Mr. Hitler was elected fair and square in 1933 under the then rules of the Weimar Republic. That was the end of free elections until the post-war Federal Republic of Germany, which followed a world war that destroyed much of Europe and killed in excess of 50 million human beings.
Am I suggesting that the oppression of Iranians of the Baha’i faith by the present government, combined with the repression of democratic forces and the subversive and well-funded Iranian activity to destabilize Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Iraq constitute a similar existential threat to large parts of the world’s population? Yes, honourable senators, that is precisely what I am suggesting.
Our duty, as allies of various partners in the region, including Sunni Arab states or our Turkish NATO allies, including the people of Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, who seek the freedom to make their own decisions about their own countries and futures, is to be clear and outspoken about what evil and malevolent intent guides the present leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. To ensure that in every way at all levels, with our allies and with respect to our geopolitical interests, we are preparing for and planning all that may be necessary to contain this vile and sadistic administration. This aggressive and inhumane administration, if unchecked and unpunished for every excess and inhumanity, will be the cause of a third world war as sure as we serve together in this upper chamber this afternoon.
What is necessary here is not just the reactive contact group’s continuing best efforts on some measure of nuclear restraint and international inspection. Canada’s new office of religious freedom should join with other similar units around the world to promote a collective course of action on behalf of the Baha’i faith community in Iran and erect a series of serious challenges in different bodies around the world for the Iranian government to face. This should be known as the Baha’i sanctions so that our Iranian friends understand precisely our collective humanitarian and principled intent. Religious oppression is always the first and most consistent instrument of the tyrant; failing to engage it directly only feeds the beast.
It goes without saying that Canada’s military, intelligence, diplomatic and other networks at home and abroad should be focusing on the granular threats posed by various Iranian forces around the world. These include places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. We must work with friendly military, diplomatic and intelligence forces amongst our partners in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, who have diverse relationships with the Iranians, in order to achieve a coherent and concerted effort to frustrate the wilful domination of the region and a world that depends on that region by the Republic of Iran’s leadership. I leave the specific measures, dynamics and aspects of that joint initiative and plan for defence and engagement to the experts in uniform and the various military, diplomatic and clandestine services around the world. I say simply that we must all prepare now, and we must all do our part.
Canada, among other nations, has walked out of and boycotted meetings where President Ahmadinejad has spewed his hateful and vile discourse, one that defiles the United Nations by its presence and despoils the wondrous and culturally heroic and rich history of the Persian people, for whom this warning that I offer today diminishes in no way my respect and affection.
It would be a good thing if our foreign minister urged his colleagues across the civilized world to join him in calling in the respective Iranian ambassadors in those capitals to deliver the very same stern message about the way the Baha’i faithful have been treated. We should advocate that a series of “Baha’i sanctions,” new, precise and impactful, be imposed universally by countries of good will and common humanitarian belief.
This did not happen to the Germany of the 1930s. A world then beset by economic uncertainty and serious impacts of a calamitous depression looked the other way as the oppression, imprisonment and extermination of minorities within Germany first, then amongst its neighbours, then through all of Western and Eastern Europe proceeded. When engagement finally came with the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth allies, including Canada, standing alone against the Germans between 1939 and 1941, and the Americans and Russians entered alongside after being attacked themselves, millions had already died, and the machines of war and extermination were well launched, to the utter expense and horror of humanity for generations and decades to come. This is what we must act now to prevent.
The suffering heaped on our Baha’i friends is neither isolated nor peripheral. It is systematic and brutal, especially when the Baha’i are known as a peaceful faith that embraces the sanctity of all religions. The official Iranian oppression of Baha’i is more than the canary in the mineshaft. It is a clarion call to humanity and to free peoples and democracies everywhere to look directly at the harsh colours of the Iranian reality and not look away until the challenge is faced head on.
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)