Iranian-Canadians discuss latest conflict between Iran and the West

Over the last few months, Canadians have witnessed a harsher tone from the Canadian government towards Iran and more specifically their nuclear program.

Vice President of the Iranian Canadian Congress Sholeh Khalili

Vice President of the Iranian Canadian Congress Sholeh Khalili


Last week, Canada, along with the U.S. and the UK, imposed strict financial sanctions in an attempt to isolate the regime.

Last Sunday, days after the imposed sanctions, Iran’s parliament approved a bill to downgrade relations with Britain. The downgrade allegedly sparked a mob of protesters to attack the British embassy in Tehran last Tuesday.

The attack has cut diplomatic ties between Iran and Britain, causing both the embassy of Britain in Tehran and the embassy of Iran in London, to evacuate and head home to their respective countries.

Alidad Mafinezam

Alidad Mafinezam

The recent International Atomic Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s nuclear program, which was the basis for the Western countries’ financial sanctions, gave no indication that Iran was in possession or in the midst of developing a nuclear bomb.

The sanctions have been a cause for concern within the Iranian-Canadian community. Many fear for the welfare of their families living in Iran. Some think the sanctions affect innocent citizens more than they do the regime. Others think war is on the horizon and destruction of their homeland inevitable. And there are groups wondering why Canada hasn’t involved the Iranian-Canadian community before imposing acting.

Iranian Canadian Congress President Behnam Esfahanezadeh told Salam Toronto that the main concern among Iranian-Canadians is they recognized Canada as a peacekeeping country rather than one who initiates conflict.

“I have spoken to Iranians here during the past two weeks and even though they don’t want the Islamic regime to be in power, they think if war occurs, the stability of the Iranian government will increase several times over,” said Esfahanezadeh. “Canada should follow the old practice they have been done; negotiation,”

Iranian Canadian Congress President Behnam Esfahanezadeh

Iranian Canadian Congress President Behnam Esfahanezadeh

Alidad Mafinezam, co-founder of the Mosaic Institute, an ethnocultural think-tank focusing on promoting peace, told Salam Toronto that he believes if the right people don’t get into the debate, war against Iran is probable.

“I think it’s (sanctions) are based on short term thinking and reactive approaches to this issue as opposed to a pro-active approach which would engage Iranians, the government and other actors in Iran,” said Mafinezam, adding that some of the “pro-active” solutions may include sending more journalists to Iran for more objective coverage and collaboration between Canadian and Iranian universities.

“I think there is a need for some kind of dialogue between the two countries especially in the wake of the mob attack on the British embassy,” said Mafinezam.

Iranian-Canadian lawyer Ali Ehsassi said one would expect the Canadian government to actually listen to Iranians in this country.

“Especially if you bear in mind that Prime Minister Harper actually does have an MP (West Vancouver MP John Weston) who a couple of years ago he designated as his liaison to the Iranian Canadian community. That person has never been in touch with Iranians over the course of the past two months when things have been somewhat hairy,” said Ehsassi, adding that the Iranian-Canadian community has sent a petition to Minister Jason Kenney and a letter to Prime Minister Harper with not response.  

Vice President of the Iranian Canadian Congress Sholeh Khalili says the ones hurt most from sanctions and war are the people of Iran.

“These sanctions are going to hurt the people, not the government,” said Khalili, pointing to the results of the attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya as proof.

There are no signs that Western countries are open for dialogue with Iran or vice versa. Proposals made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to freeze the central bank’s assets and to issue an oil embargo have had mixed reviews.

Iran is under a microscope by the international community. And while governments ponder solutions on the crisis, the Iranian diaspora in Canada and across the globe seem to have no choice but to intently wait to see how the conflict will end.

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