Open Letter to the Canadian International Peace Project-Peace and Security with Shirin Ebadi

Dear Mr. Mark M. Persaud,

We, a group of Iranian pro-democracy and human rights activists are writing to you to voice our concern and disappointment in your decision to invite Ms. Shirin Ebadi to speak in Toronto on April 26th 2010. As Iranians who are working towards a secular and democratic Iran, along with our compatriots in Iran we are concerned that you have made the decision to invite a pro-reformist speaker who does not represent the will or the demands of the Iranian people to speak at your event.

During the protests following the presidential [s]elections of June 2009, the Iranian people were able to communicate their demands to the world as well as expose the nature of the Islamic regime in Iran. A central and abundantly clear demand was “Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic.” This became one of the key slogans during the protests the past summer, and by changing the phrase “Islamic Republic” to “Iranian Republic,” the Iranian people made a clear and concise decision to separate themselves and their government from Islam. This was a major step towards a secular democracy by the Iranian people, and even though the Iranian people knew the consequences of chanting such a slogan they continued to do so day after day after day…

The demand for an “Independent, Free and Iranian Republic” was so strong that it shook the Islamic Regime to the core, to the point where Mir Hossein Mousavi the so called “reformist” candidate came out and stated “peoples’ slogan MUST be Islamic Regime, not one word more and not one more less.”

In October of 2009 during a speech at Denver, Ms. Ebadi openly claimed that Iranian society was not ready for secularism. At such a sensitive and important time in Iranian history, when people have made their demands for a secular and democratic Iran so clear, Ms. Ebadi has made a concise choice to stand with the Reformist faction of the Islamic Regime, and against the Iranian people by claiming that Iranian society is not ready for secularism.

Ms. Ebadi is an open supporter of reform instead of a new regime—an approach sustaining an Islamic government and the current Islamic regime that is responsible for 31 years of tyranny, massacre, chain killings, utter terror, democratic fraud and returning such barbaric methods of treating women and minorities such as open stoning and execution.

Ms. Ebadi’s advocacy of mixing Islam with politics and her advocacy of the current Islamic regime are an affront to human rights, peace, and freedom in Iran and the world. It is also an affront to democracy as the Iranian people and minorities have demanded equality, transparency, and participation in their own affairs rather than live under Islamic rules.

It is a shame and disappointment to see the Canadian International Peace Project side with values such as war, inequality and human rights abuse rather than secularism, democracy and human rights. The Islamic regime’s use of religion, technology, weaponry, and indoctrination to imprison and terrorize its people does not need any outside help. We hope that the Canadian International Peace Project will be more selective in its’ choice of speakers in the future, and that it will choose to stand with the Iranian People rather than with the Islamic Regime and its advocates.

Yours truly,

Sayeh Hassan, Barrister & Solicitor, Pro-Democracy Activitst
Ramin Joubin, Human Rights Activist
Faramarz Shiravand, Managing Editor,
Yasamine Ghaeni, Human Rights Activist
Morteza Ghaeni, Human Rights Activist
Helen Asad, Human Rights Activist


This is the response I have recieved from Mr. Persaud in response to my open letter:

Dear Ms Hassan:

Thank you for your note. I am quite busy at the moment so I will be brief in my response.

Please be advised of the following:

1. Contrary to your assertion, the Canadian International Peace Project did not Invite Dr. Ebadi to Canada. Dr. Ebadi was already sheduled for a national tour of Canada that includes Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa when we were asked if we wish to host her in Toronto. We accepted the invitation not on the basis that she is an Iranian national and activist but rather because she is an internationallly recognized persona whom our constituents would be interested in hearing from given her prominence including being the first Muslim woman to be awarded a nobel prize.

2. While in Vancouver she has been invited to address the British Columbia Court of Appeal in addition to other appearances.

3. In Ottawa, she is will be recognized by the Speaker of the House when she attends question period in Parliament and a Speaker's reception is planned for her. She is scheduled to meet with a number of cabinet ministers, parlimentarians and senior officials. Furthermore, a panel discussion is planned in Ottawa at which the most prominent legal expert from the Canadian Iranian community ( who is a legal scholar and an internationally recognized personality on human rights) is scheduled to be a panelist.

You should not expect him to react kindly if he receives a similar note from you.

4. The Canadian International Peace Project is an independent non-partisan organization that that promotes Canadian values, bridge building and social cohesion especially with communities in conflict. We are not a human rights organization. We do not as a policy, critize any government. Our members and supporters come from a very wide spectrum of opinions. Among the Canadian values we encourage are pluralism, democracy and freedom of expression. According we do not necessarily agree nor disagree with Dr. Ebadi statements and positions and, as with other speakers that we have had and will have in the future, we do not expect a "consensus of acceptability". Infact, we are interested in hearing from Dr. Ebadi not on human rights in Iran but more generally on peace, security and building bridges between communities given that we have a broad consituency that goes well beyond those that are merely or primarily interested in Iran.

As a Canadian trained lawyer, you should be able to understand these distinctions.

5. One of the benefits of living in Canada, which I consider the best country in the world to live in, is that people from diaspora communities are encouraged and expected to embrace Canadian values. While community and human rights activists must be supported in their right to voice their opinions on domestic and international issues, such activism should not be used to bully or silence others.

Furthermore, many Canadians fled their countries of origin to escape such bullying and silencing that invariably ferments civil and political unrest. Accordingly, it is imperative that we do not import foreign conflicts into our communities and indeed resist those that try to. Our obligation to our great country requires that, first and foremost, we adhere to and promote Canadian values. The hosting of Dr. Shirin Ebadi by the Canadian International Peace Project in Toronto is entirely consistent with these values.

Kindest regards,

Mark M. Persaud, LL.B., LL.M.


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