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LETTER: Fearing for personal rights at home

MPs should be standing up for protesters, not just those facing execution – local writer
Mohammad Ghobadlou (right) was sentenced to be executed in Iran for participating in nationwide freedom protests. (Centre for Human Rights in Iran)

Dear Editor,

Re: [MP fights Iranian execution, Langley Advance Times, Jan. 19]

Letter to MP John Aldag:

I appreciated the story on the front page of the Advance Times describing your support for Iranians who are being oppressed by their government.

The actions of the Iranian government are certainly reprehensible and the anguish felt by the families should absolutely stir up empathy and a desire to extend whatever help we can.

Having said that, I would like to inquire whether a government must be executing citizens in order for you to defend a citizen’s right to protest and speak out against a government.

RELATED OPINION: Iranian woman living in Fraser Valley urging MPs to sponsor prisoners to avoid execution

If the Iranian government were to agree to limit their actions to smearing peaceful protesters in the press and accusing them of violence without any evidence, would you then defend the government’s right to suppress voices of opposition?

What if a government declared a national emergency in order to temporarily make a peaceful protest illegal and justify the use of force, including techniques such as snatch and grabs (with some use of rifle butts to subdue protesters holding flowers, flags, or the constitution) or arrest and release (but while arrested those citizens were made to wait outdoors in negative temperatures and were then released in the middle of nowhere without access to vehicles or phones and some suffered frostbite) would that be enough cause to defend a citizen’s right to free speech?

What if the Iranian government agreed to limit the consequences imposed to financial ones, such as the freezing of bank accounts, loss of employment, or the use of professional bodies to sanction those who speak out or act in ways contrary to state policy, would that be acceptable?

What if it could be proved that the protests were disruptive to the communities where they were located, affected the economy of those living in the region and were negatively impacting the global reputation of the nation’s government, do the Iranian protesters still deserve your protection?

What if the Iranian government were suppressing protests in support of equality for the unvaccinated instead of equality for women, would you stand for free speech then?

A government that defends protesters experiencing, what is certainly extreme persecution in foreign nations, while suppressing protests in its own, cannot claim to be champions of liberty and free speech.

Saying, “The Islamic Republic of Iran must stop jailing anyone who wants to voice their opinion” just months after standing silent while your party jailed Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, to name just a few, seems hypocritical at best.

Your support of Iranian protesters makes for a good front page story, but unless you support free speech and protests, even when you disagree with the content and the way it is expressed, then you do not truly support free speech. I am increasingly frightened by the erosion of personal rights and freedoms in Canada.

Jessica Koehn, Langley


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