Monday, January 07, 2008

Re: Letter from Mr. Paulo Casaca, member of the European Parliament, to the Canadian Government

January 6, 2008

Re: Letter from Mr. Paulo Casaca, member of the European Parliament, to the Canadian Government

Honorable Mr. Stockwell Day,

I am writing to you in order to express our deep concerns about a letter, addressed to the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, in which Mr. Casaca made serious allegations against our organization and its directors. The letter has been translated and published in one of the Mojahedin e Khalgh organization’s satellite sites at the following address: http://www.iran-efshagari.com/details_d.aspx?id_news=3476 .

As a Canadian citizen, I find Mr. Casaca’s intervention with Canada’s internal affairs presumptuous. His expression of opinion on a subject that he has no prior knowledge of is quite irresponsible. Though I am quite confident that our Centre and its directors are well recognized not only by the community we are directly serving, Iranian-Canadians, but also by the community at large as well as the relevant government offices I wish to give a brief history of our organization and its establishment.

In May 2003 and during the pre-election debates on the board of directors of a university based discussion group since part of its members strongly believed in the importance of Human Rights advocacy as part of the group’s agenda we made a decision to split the group in two sections and our organization inherited the original name and the mandate of such advocacy and the other section continued its bi-weekly discussion sessions that were held at OISE for almost three years. Our first major project, right after our registration as an organization, was the unfortunate case of Ms. Zahra Kazemi in which we worked with likes of Mr. Maurice Capithorne, Honorable David Miller, Mr. John Cartwright and many others. In our second major project, on the occasion of tragic earthquake in Bam-Iran, once again we worked with Mr. Buzz Hargrove, Mr. Jack Layton, Ms. Shelley Carroll and many other credible individuals to collect $130,000 and donate it to the Red Cross for the cause. Ever since our centre has been fully active and involved in regards to the well being of the Iranian community in Canada as well as demonstrating a transparent desire to achieve freedom and democracy by the means of peaceful and civilized activities in Iran. Needless to mention that our records, personally and professionally, is always available for audit by authorities.

In the past four years our directors were invited to serve in different organizations and sit at different boards all as result of their dedication to the cause of democracy and human rights. During this time, as one example, I have been one of the first members of the Stop the War Coalition, founder and board member of Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), member of the Bam Relief Committee, former president of Muslim Canadian Congress and current director of Canadian Muslim Union, member of National Ethnic Press and many other positions for which have never been compensated by funds, grants, donations or any other form of payments.

In late fall 2005 Mr. Mohammadi approached our Centre and explained his situation. We, in return, gave him a realistic picture of how limited our involvement would be since his daughter is of a legal age and without Canadian status. At that time Mr. Mohammadi was working with a respectable non-Iranian lawyer, Ms. Pamila Bhardwaj, who accepted the case pro bono and because of the family’s language barrier I agreed to act as their translator and also write their letters. The lawyer is still helping the devastated family by representing them at the Ministry of Immigration and Citizenship as well as other government departments. As I was just learning about the internal history of MKO through the contacts, witnesses and the first hand experience of the family’s young son who just came back from Iraq, Camp Ashraf, I was approached by some former members of MKO being kept in TIPF, Iraq, and they informed me about the suspicious suicide of a young man by the name of Yaser Akbari Nasab. Though by the time we were informed about this sad event almost two weeks were passed of the date of his death there was no news about it on any site or other media. In an interview with Radio Farda I publicly talked about this and correctly asked for International monitoring of the situation in this camp. This is when the MKO started attacking me, our organization and other directors. Despite all the threatening and discouraging messages and by ignoring the many warnings by concern members of our community we did not change our minds and never stopped doing what we deemed appropriate, legal and democratic. Up to this day our Centre has been involved directly with the case of former members who have been trapped for years in Iraq and we did all to bring their cases to the attention of UNHCR, HRW, AI and similar international organizations. Contrary to the claim of Mojahedin, and its echo by Mr. Casaca, these people ignored the many offers of some shady HR organizations which may or may not have ties with the IRI and are consciously paying a heavy price for that decision.

The volume of the threats, allegations and accusations that we received so far, particularly me and Mr. Saeed Soltanpour, has been beyond tolerable. The most recent wave of attacks started when Mr. Mohammadi and his wife, with serious concern for the future of their daughter after the negotiations between Iran and USA regarding the future of residents of Camp Ashraf, traveled to Baghdad and after an unsuccessful visit with Somayeh on their way back to the city were physically attacked by MKO members, started a desperate campaign in Iraq. On the morning of December 10 Ms. Sonya Hooykaas, the Canadian Council from Jordan called me and by confirming the very story asked me to convince him to return to Canada since she had concerns for their safety. She also asked me if it is OK that she adds my name to her report to Ottawa to which I agreed. However, our belief is that we should not allow pressure and violent threats to paralyze us and concern for personal safety should not prevent us from helping those in urgent need. Unfortunately the current leadership of MKO transferred a credible and popular opposition group into a violent and isolated organization that exists and operates at the will of any willing player but Iranians. I trust that their isolation from the Iranian communities in the Western world as well as inside Iran has been noticed and documented by those interested.

For all these reasons we continue our work by relying on our credentials within our community and all the protection that is available to any Canadian citizens. By now, we are not only used to the exhausted methods of MKO in affiliating every single criticism with ties to the Ministry of Information in Iran but also amused by it. However, it was quite a shock to hear that a member of the European Parliament who has no knowledge of us either individually or as an organization repeats the same baseless rhetoric. It is quite naïve of a politician to claim that a government, even as repressing and violent as IRI, plans such extensive operation just to rescue a young novice from a military camp in a war zone. After all, even MKO could not accuse us of any other wrong doing but our assistance to this family. Yet, Mr., Casaca ignored the fact that in no communication the father asked his daughter to sever her relations to the organization or go back to Iran. Actually the recent rush by these desperate parents was due to their fear of their child being returned to Iran as result of negotiations. After all many of MKO members including its leadership reside and operate in Western countries and mostly in Europe.

Ordinary people chose their representatives hoping that they are knowledgeable and just above all. Irresponsible judgments and unwise opinions are not the most desirable qualities for those who are vested with such power. As citizens who believe in the Canadian charter of rights we wish to bring your attention to the serious damage caused by Mr. Casaca’s passing of opinion and would like him to withdraw his allegations immediately. Also since the MKO has gone to an unusual extant in order to defame and terrorize us we would like the Canadian authorities to acknowledge the gravity of the situation and have some proper masseurs in place.

Sincerely,

Niaz Salimi
Director
Cc: Honorable Diane Finley – Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Honorable Maxime Bernier – Minister of foreign affairs
Ms. Chrystiane Roy – Iran Desk
Mr. Fernando Da Silva Marques – Portuguese Embassy
Mr. Paulo Casaca - MEPEU
Canadian

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