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‘Nothing has been finished’ – Day of protest planned for freedom in Iran

The Women, Life, Freedom movement is approaching its second anniversary.
Hamed Esmaeilion, Iranian-Canadian social activist spokesperson of the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims is calling for a day of protest for freedom and justice on Sept. 16. Hamid Jafari / North Shore News

Thousands of demonstrations against the Islamic Republic of Iran are expected to be back across Canadian and the world on Sept. 16.

Approaching the anniversary of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in Iran, the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims declared on Twitter, “We are coming into the streets around the globe to once more say her name for women, life, and freedom.”

The Woman, Life, Freedom movement began in Iran following the tragic death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in Tehran by morality police – a dedicated unit that enforces strict dress codes for women – on Sept. 16, 2022.

Hamed Esmaeilion, former spokesperson for the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims said in an exclusive interview with North Shore News, he aims to send a message to the public and the authorities in both Canada and Iran.

“We are at the middle of the movement,” he said. “Nothing has been finished or nothing has been over and the fight for justice and freedom in Iran is ongoing and never ends until we see that the Islamic Republic of Iran is overthrown from power.”

Since the protests began in Iran, there have been at least 537 deaths and 22,000 arrests. Many others have been injured, including protesters Raheleh Amiri, Ghazal Ranjkesh, Mohsen Kafshgar and 23 others, who tragically lost eyes due to bullets fired by state security forces during the demonstrations. According to a report by the Center for Human Rights in Iran, the actual number of victims of blinding is higher, and many others have chosen to remain silent out of fear of state reprisals. Additionally, an annual report from Amnesty International found that the number of executions in Iran increased from 314 in 2021 to 576 in 2022.

The Iranian diaspora in Canada has done much to lobby the federal government but Esmaeilion said there is a need for more action from Ottawa.

“The Iranian- Canadian community has been very active in writing to officials and having rallies, but the response that they got from the officials hasn’t been enough at all. Putting the names of the officials of Islamic Republic on the list is important, but when the public see that the former minister of the Islamic regime is freely walking in the streets of Montreal, I think this is very disturbing.”

A photo of Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, Iran’s former minister of health, walking the streets of Montreal spread widely on Twitter.

On Aug. 8, Global Affairs Canada imposed new package of sanctions on officials from the Iran’s regime, including seven individuals who “gravely threaten international peace and security.”

“In the list we see some important names that are not allowed to step on Canadian soil. But I see the bigger picture; the foreign interference by the Islamic Republic, … by sending their agents to this country to infiltrate in the political parties, communities, libraries, etc. And this is a real danger for Canada. If we think about national security in this country, we have to take this very seriously,” Esmaeilion said.

Flight PS752

Esmaeilion said Flight PS752 case being referred to the International Court of Justice marks a significant step.

On January 8, 2020, Flight PS752 was shot down with two missiles fired by the Revolutionary Guard. Among the 176 people killed in the tragedy, there were 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents. Esmaeilion’s wife, Parisa Eghbalian, and his nine-year-old daughter Reera were killed.

The association was founded to keep the memories of the victims alive, assist their families and push for truth and justice.

“It has been a long journey for us to get to this momentum and we are happy that the case is finally at the Hague, but we know that it’s a long journey ahead of us and it takes a couple of years to have a day in court,” he said. “I just want to assure everyone that the families of the victims and the association are resolute to see Islamic Republic of Iran in the international court.”

The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims has since asked Ottawa to add the Revolutionary Guard to the list of terrorist organizations.

“I think in this movement that happened in Iran, we tried to help the revolution in Iran and echo the voices of the Iranians out of the country, and we’re going to continue doing that,” he said.

In October 2022, protests were held in more than 150 cities around the world. And there have been several large demonstrations on the North Shore including one in which thousands of people took part in a massive “human chain” stretching from Vancouver to the North Shore in solidarity with Iranian protesters.

Esmaeilion said he hopes to see that spirit back on Sept. 16.

“Approaching the anniversary of the movement, answering the question of what will happen in Iran, is like predicting an earthquake. A revolution is not predictable. What we can do is amplify the voices of the people in Iran,” he said.

Hamid Jafari is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist who writes about the Iranian community in Canada, art, culture, and social media trends. His work for the North Shore News is supported by New Canadian Media. [email protected]