(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef travelled to Iran using a religious pilgrimage visa and an Afghan passport.
Nearly two weeks after questions were first put to Monsef about her extensive travel to Afghanistan and Iran in 2010, 2013 and 2014, her office has finally released a detailed statement, exclusive to the Sun.
“Minister Monsef travelled to Iran in each case on her Afghan passport, which she obtained at the Afghan Consulate in Toronto,” wrote John O’Leary, Monsef’s Director of Communications.
Iran is one of the most closed and secretive countries in the world. It is very difficult for private citizens from Canada to visit Iran.
“In each case, she travelled to Iran on a pilgrimage visa, a common visa many Muslims use to visit holy sites in Iran.”
Iran issues special pilgrimage visas for Shi’ite Muslims wishing to visit the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad. This shrine is considered one of the holiest sites for Shi’ite Muslims.
“On her trips, she visited the Imam Reza shrine holy sites as well as her family members,” O’Leary continued.
New information that Monsef travelled with a pilgrimage visa, however, deviates from a statement issued by Monsef’s press secretary to Postmedia’s David Akin earlier this week.
On Tuesday, Monsef’s office released a statement saying that she travelled to the region in order to go to Afghanistan.
“Her ultimate destination was Afghanistan, where she wanted to visit her father’s resting ground to pay her respects, and work to empower women and girls,” Monsef’s press secretary wrote on Tuesday.
“She was unable to travel there due to terrorism and violence. She briefly remained in Iran volunteering with the Afghan refugee community before returning to Canada.”
The original statement contained…(READ MORE)