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NEDA HASSANI
Statement by Hon. David Kilgour, Pinecrest Cemetary, Ottawa
21 June 2008

It is a sad honour to speak about Neda and the circumstances leading to her martyrdom five years ago at the French embassy in Britain. Unfortunately, it was not my good fortune to know her except when she was once my interpreter in Ottawa at the age of twelve. From everything her family and many others have said, she was an extraordinary person. An official of this large cemetery said today that no-one buried here receives more attention and continuing visits than Neda.

On June, 17th, 2003, Jacques Chirac committed one of the worst errors of his presidency. He sent approximately 1300 armoured police with guns to the home of Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, outside Paris to arrest her and about 150 others. The French courts have since invalidated this state violence and found entirely in Mrs. Rajavi's favour.

The victims included Neda, who unfortunately judged it necessary to sacrifice her young life to protest Chirac's act. Her act no doubt played a part in the court's favourable decision.

One can only suppose that Chirac was trying to curry commercial favour for France with the regime in Tehran. In reality, the result was to entrench more deeply the ayatollahs in power, thereby increasing regional and world insecurity. As Eskandar Filabi said earlier at this event, it is truly a "malignant tyranny".

Human dignity abuses by the Iranian government currently include persecution of ethnic and religious minorities (Arabs, Azeri's, Kurds, Turks, Baha'is, Jews and Christians), women in a species of gender apartheid, imprisonment, torture and execution of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and complete control over the media. In trading with Iran, France and other countries doing so legitimize its government and help to maintain officials in positions of absolute power. Trade and investment from abroad also provide Tehran, it appears, with funds used less for the health, education and general welfare of Iranians, than for funding terrorist groups abroad, including Hezbollah and Hamas, under the banner of "expanding the Islamic Empire".

The government of Canada initiated the successfully-passed UN General Assembly resolution in late 2007, which drew attention to numerous human rights abuses in Iran, including confirmed instances of:

  1. Arbitrary torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Including, flogging and amputations;

  2. Public executions, including multiple public executions, and of other executions carried out in the absence of respect for internationally recognized safeguards;

  3. Stoning as a method of execution, and the continued issuing of sentences of stoning;

  4. Execution of persons who were under the age of 18 at the time their offence was committed, contrary to the obligations of the Islamic Republic of Iran under article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

  5. Arrests, violent repression, and sentencing of women exercising their right to peaceful assembly, a campaign of intimidation against women's human rights defenders, and continuing discrimination against women and girls in law and in practice;

  6. Ongoing, systemic and serious restrictions of freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of opinion and expression, including those imposed on the media and trade unions, and increasing harassment, intimidation and persecution of political opponents and human rights defenders, from all sectors of Iranian society, including arrests and violent repression of labour leaders, labour members peacefully assembling and students;

  7. Persistent failure to uphold due process of law rights, and violation of the rights of detainees, including the systematic and use of prolonged solitary confinementů"
We should all keep in mind these ongoing terrible realities and their implications for world peace. In recent weeks, moreover, the Government in Tehran has locked up all seven senior leaders of the country's 300,000-member Baha'i spiritual community. This violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects freedom of religion, and a host of other international covenants.

In early June, Iran's regime fired three or four Grad missiles at the approximately 4000 UN-protected residents, including about sixty Canadians, living in Iraq's Ashraf city. This was clearly an act of war, although fortunately no one was hurt.

We are all here today in large numbers to honour Neda. Her sacrifice helped turn public opinion in France, Canada and elsewhere in the direction that human dignity today is ultimately indivisible around our shrunken world.

God bless Neda.

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