Three Iranian men, after being subjected to torture, forced into televised confessions and denied due process, were executed Friday by Iran—all three for “modaraba,” an Islamic legal term meaning “waging war against God.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had no public reaction, but two years ago turned around his government’s approach to Iran as an unprecedented revolt against clerical rule.

The change had Trudeau saying his government would be taking stronger actions against members of the Iranian regime, “including ensuring that we go after them for any assets or homes that they have in Canada.”

That very same afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra attended a rally in Ottawa, marking a thousand days since Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down Flight PS752 with a missile, killing 55 Canadians and another 30 permanent residents.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s embrace of Iran’s uprising had won him praise in the Iranian community. Poilievre personally attended and spoke at both the Ottawa rally and at a weekend march in Richmond Hill, Ont., attended by an estimated 50,000 people.

Trudeau, on the other hand, was criticized on Iranian social media for not appearing at any events related to Iran while finding time to go bungee jumping in the Gatineau Hills.

Even the left-leaning Toronto Star criticized the Trudeau government, calling its reaction “feeble” and “out of touch” on Iran.

“In the last few days, I think (the federal Liberals) realized the facts on the ground have changed, and also I think they’ve seen reactions from Iranian Canadians,” said Kaveh Shahrooz, a lawyer who organized the march in Toronto. 

“The process of working with government is you keep pushing and eventually they give in to your demands.”

Shahrooz told CBC he’s aware the change of direction may have been motivated by Poilievre’s inroads with Iranian voters.

“I think that’s actually a very good thing, and that’s how democracy should work,” he said. “If one party is not being responsive to your demands, another party swoops in and speaks to your needs. And the argument I’ve tried to make to my own community, and I hope every other community follows suit, is, ‘Don’t let politicians take your vote for granted,'” said Shahrooz.

“If a politician ignores your demands, consider what the other party is offering. And I think the message got across loud and clear to the Liberal Party this week.”

In Iran, meanwhile, videos emerged online earlier this week showing many cars congregating around the prison area, with drivers honking their horns and chanting slogans in support of staying the executions.

The protests began in mid-September 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was arrested by “morality police” in Tehran for allegedly not adhering to a mandatory dress code for women.

The demonstrations have largely subsided in recent months, though there are still sporadic acts of defiance, including the refusal of a growing number of women to adhere to the dress code.

London-based Amnesty International also criticized the cases.

“The shocking manner in which the trial and sentencing of these protesters was fast-tracked through Iran’s judicial system amid the use of torture-tainted ‘confessions,’ serious procedural flaws, and a lack of evidence is another example of the Iranian authorities’ brazen disregard for the rights to life and fair trial,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

At least 582 people were executed in 2022 in Iran, up from 333 the previous year.

A short message purportedly handwritten and signed by the three condemned men was widely published online, in which they said, “Don’t let them kill us.”


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.