Avideh Motmaen-Far is the President of the Council of Iranian Canadians. Dr. Masood Masjoody is Vice-President.
Iran’s brutal regime is no longer enjoying its once-privileged status in capitals across Europe. The Western world is waking up to the mullahs’ depraved human-rights abuses and no longer accepting their representatives in economics, politics, and diplomacy. Canada must escalate its actions to match our increasingly clear-eyed allies.
Earlier this month, the European Parliament took concrete and proactive action by demanding that EU policy makers designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Although the European Council delayed the move, citing the need for a court case from a member state, the 27-member state bloc announced a new sanctions package against the regime.
Meanwhile, across the English Channel, the United Kingdom announced economic sanctions against Iran, targeting top regime officials. Rumours are swirling that the UK is poised to designate the entire IRGC as a proscribed terrorist group.
Yet in North America, Canada – in contrast to our southern neighbour – remains painfully alone in its sluggish action. As countries across Europe escalate their respective sanctions against the regime, Canada’s fair weather approach and light measures are impossible to justify.
Of course, we must afford the federal government credit for positive steps it enacted last October as protests against the regime reached a crescendo in the Iranian diaspora. At the time, Deputy Prime Minister Chyrstia Freeland announced sanctions against top IRGC leadership and explicitly referred to them as “terrorists.”
However, the crucial goal of the federal government designating the IRGC as a terrorist entity (supported unanimously by Liberal and Conservative caucuses in a 2018 House of Commons motion) remains unfulfilled. This is unacceptable and becoming out of sync with our allies across the world.
History never reflects favourably on those that choose silence over action against totalitarian regimes. Thus, the federal government’s failure to comply with Parliament’s request to designate the IRGC as terrorists threatens Canada’s legacy and reputation as a country that values human rights.
The IRGC, considered Iran’s top security force at home and abroad, is notorious for its decades of totalitarian theocratic rule and terrorist actions. Most recently, the IRGC has brutally suppressed protests in Iran that were calling for democratic regime change after the murder of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being arrested for “improperly” wearing the hijab.
And of particular concern and pain for Canadians, the IRGC is responsible for shooting down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752, which resulted in the deaths of 55 Canadian citizens and dozens of permanent residents and students. IRGC terrorism is no abstract and distant scourge to Canadians, its murderous actions have directly impacted our own.
There is no doubt that sanctions and policies, including terrorist designation, are effective. Solidarity with an oppressed people must include isolating their abusers with incremental and targeted isolation from financial, cultural and political centres of power.
Europe’s latest sanctions package shows the bloc is waking up and finally appreciating that there can be no compromise with Tehran’s mullahs. It is impossible to appease terrorists, for their fanaticism knows no boundaries recognizable to those in the free world.
If Canada is to remain known as a bastion for human rights, immediate action is required. The federal government must designate under existing terrorism legislation the IRGC as a terrorist entity without delay.