A prospective Conservative candidate has bowed out of the race, taking aim at “unprecedented foreign interference” he says was directed his way.

Kaveh Shahrooz, a lawyer and Iranian human rights activist, had just launched a bid for the Conservative nomination in the Greater Toronto Area riding of Richmond Hill. He ended his campaign Thursday, accusing the Conservatives of letting “significant foreign interference” by the Iranian regime go “unaddressed.”

“Disinformation about me was amplified by Iranian regime cyber accounts,” he said. “I was physically monitored and threatened. Our campaign volunteers were afraid for thee safety of their families in Iran.”

Shahrooz said he wanted “additional time to fight back.”

The lawyer is an outspoken opponent of the Iranian regime. Richmond Hill has a large Iranian community and is represented by Iranian-born Liberal MP Majid Jowhari.

Shahrooz used to be a card-carrying Liberal and once vied for a Liberal nomination, but he said he “tore up” his membership in 2016 when the Liberals would not join the Conservatives in voting to condemn the ISIS genocide that targeted ethnic minorities, including Yazidis. It was the first step of many in a trajectory towards changing his political affiliation.

Last week, he gave a talk called The Head of the Snake Is In Tehran: How Fighting For Human Rights In Iran Changed My Views on Israel. He spoke of his upbringing in Iran, how he and others in the country were taught to hate Israel, how he eventually found common cause with the Jewish state, and how to fight Islamists.

Though not Jewish, Shahrooz sported a yarmulke when he addressed 270 attendees via video and in-person at Adath Israel Synagogue in North York. The Iranian-born Canadian is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests and a former senior policy adviser on human rights to Global Affairs Canada.

Shahrooz’s advocacy and brief political run were motivated by horrors of the Iranian regime that have affected his family directly. His mother received a call telling her that her brother had been executed by the Islamic Republic. Shahrooz said her pain-filled scream fuels him “each day to get up and right for justice.”

Shortly after the call, the family moved to Canada for a “better life for their kids.”

Shahrooz said that he’s noticed many of those seeking a “free and democratic Iran, accountability for the Iran, Iranian regime’s mass crimes, and the horrendous gender and religious discrimination in that country” are Jewish or have connections to Israel.

“They understand without me having to explain very much, how cruel and murderous dictatorships can be. And they understand that regimes like Iran’s don’t respond to reason, that their behavior doesn’t improve with dialogue,” he said. 

However, he also noticed how many of those who oppose Israel “purportedly on human rights grounds” were “suddenly silent” when it came to how Iranian women are treated like second-class citizens.

“The same people were always quick to condemn Israel for its treatment of Muslims, couldn’t bring themselves, for example, to condemn China,” alluding to the country’s Muslim Uighur community placed in concentration camps.

“For these people, moral condemnations were incredibly easy when it came to Israel, and nearly impossible for everyone else,” he noted. “I can no longer ignore the hypocrisy, the selective morality, the unfair application of one set of standards to Jews and the Jewish state, and another, to other people in other continents.”

In light of his newfound clarity, he said that a two-state solution is not possible until the “absolute obliteration of Hamas” – a terror group whose stated goal is to destroy Israel.

Countries like Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and other places will not know peace, until “we cut the head of the snake,” he said, referring to the Iranian regime. Doing so involves “smartly designed sanctions,” listing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp as a terror organization, and supporting “ordinary citizens who are ready to risk life and limb to overthrow this regime.” He said Iranians are sick of their government using their national wealth to fund terrorism.

“So long as Iran’s regime has power, there will always be Hamas, there will always be Hezbollah,” he said at the synagogue. “So long as Iran’s regime is in power, we will be under threat from Tehran to Tel Aviv to Toronto.”

Perversely, one of the issues that had motivated his entry to politics was a desire to combat foreign interference in the Canadian democratic process. He told True North he believes the Liberals have not taken the threats posed by “bad actors,” including Iran, seriously.

To Shahrooz’s mind, Trudeau gives the impression that Iran can be reasoned with, yet it is a “gangster and mafia regime” that supports “the worst kinds of terrorism in the world” and should be dealt with as such.

He told True North that his knowledge of post-revolution Iran – a place where people could be killed for saying the “wrong thing” – has shaped his beliefs on free speech. He called free speech “a master value” to ensure the “ability to democratically solve problems.”


  • Dave Gordon

    Dave Gordon is a media professional and has worked in an editor capacity for National Post, Postmedia, Markham Review, Thornhill Liberal, Pie Magazine, TheJ.ca, Swagger Magazine and Checkout My Business. His work can be found at https://www.davegordonwrites.com.