Mark Collins – Homa Hoodfar, or, the Iran the Canadian Government Wants to Engage

First the case of the Iranian-Canadian (also Irish) professor imprisoned in Iran:

…A renowned anthropologist, Professor Hoodfar has published widely on gender and development, Islamic family law, refugees, informal economies, Muslim dress codes, and women’s political participation. She has conducted fieldwork in multiple countries across the Middle East and North America. Her work is best known for interrogating Western stereotypes about Muslim women, and has earned her the reputation as one of the most respected scholars working in the field of Middle Eastern women’s studies…

Now an article by “Maziar Bahari…an Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker [website here] and the founder of the ‘Not a Crime’ campaign to end official educational discrimination against Iran’s Baha’i religious minority” [see end here]:

A Humane Voice for a Cruel Regime

Seven years ago, I heard the name of a prominent Iranian diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at least 118 times. That was how many days I spent imprisoned in Iran for doing my job as a journalist — and how many days I was beaten by an intelligence officer in the hard-line Revolutionary Guards. He demanded that I falsely confess to being a C.I.A. agent and invent false stories that Mr. Zarif had connections to Western intelligence agencies. Rather than cooperate, I somehow withstood the daily torture.

This month Mr. Zarif, now Iran’s foreign minister, has been in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting, alongside other Iranian diplomats and President Hassan Rouhani. Together, they have tried to give Iran’s government a humane face as champions of Middle East stability, while denying its human rights abuses.

Theirs is a thankless task: They must know they are lying. Iranian diplomats are caught between their desire to join the modern world and the reality of the government they represent. They also know their own rights are at risk if they don’t follow the wishes of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.

In 2006, when the hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, one diplomat told me he had one of the world’s most unenviable jobs. I won’t endanger him by naming him, so I’ll call him Amir. He told me: “If you’re a conscientious man who tries to help his country by changing the system from within, you can’t stop feeling suicidal. When you work for this government you can see how corrupt the system is and how erratically the Guards and the judiciary system can behave. And all this happens on the supreme leader’s watch.”

Amir was jailed not long after that…

In Evin prison, my torturer told me the enemies who “deserved to die” were the diplomats, reformist politicians and officials who dared to try to change the Islamic Republic — people like the imprisoned former statesmen who had visited New York regularly before that spring.

I had been the accredited reporter for Newsweek magazine for 11 years, and had made documentary films about Iran for British television. Soon after my first interrogation, I realized that the sole purpose of my incarceration and torture was to force me into a false narrative, concocted by the Guards, of espionage and betrayal of Iran by myself and its reformist politicians. I refused.

…Mr. Zarif laughs off questions about human rights abuses. Last year he told Charlie Rose: “We do not jail people for their opinions.” Certainly, he knows he is lying. He knows that many people, like Amir, have been imprisoned for their ideas…

Over to you foreign minister Dion. Engage on with foreign minister Zarif et al.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


2 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Homa Hoodfar, or, the Iran the Canadian Government Wants to Engage”

  1. And now the Iranians release Prof. Hoodfar after talks between the Canadian and Iranian foreign ministers–not Canadian gov’t has asked family not to talk. Let’s see what shape she is in and how, er, grateful our gov’t is:

    ‘Canadian professor Homa Hoodfar released from Iran jail

    After nearly four months in solitary detention, the Canadian-Iranian university professor Homa Hoodfar has suddenly been let go by Iranian authorities.

    Prof. Hoodfar was on her way to Oman, a source said, confirming media reports from Iran.

    In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Prof. Hoodfar “has been released from jail and will soon be reunited with her family, friends and colleagues.”

    Canada has no diplomatic presence in Iran, having closed its Tehran embassy in 2012. Mr. Trudeau said the assistance of Oman, Italy and Switzerland had been pivotal in gaining Prof. Hoodfar’s release.

    Her release came weeks after her family said that the 65-year-old professor’s health had declined to the point that she could barely walk or talk.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion had said that, while attending the United Nations General Assembly last week, he had met his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and that the discussions included “consular cases.”

    Prof. Hoodfar was released on Monday [Sept. 26], an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

    “Homa Hoodfar, the retired professor of Canadian universities, who had been detained in Iran based on some accusations was released this afternoon for humanitarian reasons including illness, and left Iran to Canada, through Oman,” Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

    A friend of Prof. Hoodfar said the family had been asked by the Canadian government not to comment immediately…

    Her family has said she has been in poor health. She suffered a mild stroke last year and has myasthenia gravis (MG), a rare neuromuscular disorder which weakens her voluntary muscles.

    Relatives said she was severely weakened by her captivity and had to be hospitalized last month…’

    Mark Collins

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