Homa Hoodfar, a Concordia University professor, is being held against her will by Iranian authorities.
She has been under arrest since March of this year, and was recently transferred to the notorious Evin Prison, where Montreal-based photographer Zahra Kazemi was tortured to death in 2003. Hoodfar, a highly regarded anthropologist, was on a scholarly mission researching the role of women in Iranian political life. To date, no formal complaint has been lodged against her.
The former Conservative Government of Canada cut ties with Iran in 2012 for its rabid human rights abuses, persecution of the gay community, state-sponsorship of terrorism, illegal nuclear weapons program, and threats against Israel, the US, and the West. In the 2015 Canadian federal elections, Justin Trudeau vowed to normalize relations with Iran, partly as a result of the 2015 Nuclear Deal.
This despite the fact that Iran continues to sponsor terrorist groups such as Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and Houthi extremists in Yemen; in addition to actively assist the Assad Regime in Syria, and is continuing to develop a long range ballistic missile program in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
Within this context, the Canadian government should rethink its rapprochement with Iran. While it is understandable that Canada wants to stand with the international community in easing sanctions on Iran as a result of the agreement, illegally detaining Canadian citizens in addition to violating international law, discriminating against minorities, and threatening Canada’s allies should not be rewarded, but met with a strong response.
As a ‘middle power’ Canada has played a vital role in the Middle East. It recently concluded its combat mission in Afghanistan in assistance to the US and NATO, took a leadership role in the Libyan Air Campaign as per the ‘Arab Spring,’ and is actively assisting Western allies in Syria. These efforts, in addition to others such as its historic peace-keeping missions, medical assistance, and developmental aid are respectable and should continue to be pursued. Normalizing ties with Iran at this time would not fall in line with this historic and highly regarded approach.
Reestablishing ties with Iran could be greatly beneficial for both states, however, at a minimum, Canada should not do so until Iran stops discriminating against minorities, ceases sponsorship of terrorism, and releases Professor Hoodfar, and any and all other foreign nationals illegally detained.
UPDATE: At the end of September, 2016, Prof. Hoodfar was released and has returned to Canada.