Madam Speaker, let us start with the obvious: The IRGC or Sepah, as it is known in Farsi, is a terrorist group. It has been a terrorist organization for decades, since 1979. It has been organizing terror campaigns in the Middle East, both against opponents of the Iranian Islamic regime in Tehran and also against its own people. It has been successful at intimidating and bullying, but also at murdering its political opponents wherever they are, whether they are in Europe, in Africa, or in the Middle East, including right in Iran.
We have seen this ever since September 2022, after the murder of Jina Amini, a Kurdish woman from the city of Saqqez. She was visiting Tehran when she was picked up by the morality police for not wearing her hijab properly. When they noticed that she was Kurdish, that led to her eventual beating and murder by the regime, which then kicked off the mass protests in her home town of Saqqez, and then the worse protest in Sanandaj, which had the worst repression by IRGC militiamen.
I was looking on ChatGPT, which is a fancy little AI program, and I asked it what is a great Yiddish proverb on doing the right thing. ChatGPT gave me this one: “To conquer the world, the best tactic is to be a mensch”, meaning a person of integrity. The government needs to be that personhood of integrity in this case.
In 2018, the Parliament of Canada passed a motion calling on the Government of Canada to list the IRGC as a terror group. A person of integrity would have listened to Parliament then. They would look at 2022 and 2023, today, at the ongoing protests, because they have not ended. Many protesters have been executed. Many protesters have life sentences that have been given to them for the simple act of standing up for the democratic and human rights that they are entitled to by their very creator. Just by being, they are entitled to these rights: to disagree with their government and to protest peacefully on the streets of whatever city they want in Iran, something that many of them have not been able to do since 1979, since the mullahs of Khan took over the country and led it down a dark, dark path.
There are names I want to mention, because I have been told repeatedly by Iranians, including Persians, Kurds, Baloch and Azerbaijanis who live in Iran, that it actually matters when we mention names in this House. The Iranian regime is worried that we will mention protesters, human rights activists and democracy activists because it will save their lives, so I am going to start with a few.
Nazila Maroufian is a 23-year-old journalist. She was actually a journalist with Ruydad 24 and she was one of the first to cover the story. She interviewed one of the parents of Jina Amini and, for her troubles to get the truth out, she was jailed. She was put on a show trial at first, then released and put on a new show trial. Her sentence is two years in jail and a five-year ban from leaving Iran. She is one of those victims of the IRGC and I am calling on the Iranian regime to release her.
There are many names that we can see on the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights list. This is a human rights group working in Iran itself that, for decades, has been describing the different crimes being committed by the Islamic regime against all the people of Iran, often targeting Kurds from the western provinces, a region that many Kurds call “Rojhelat”, especially kolbar Kurds. These are people, typically men, who go across the border into Iraq and bring much-needed supplies such as medicine and food. Supplies are very hard to come by in certain parts of Iran, or the costs are extremely high. These are individuals who are shot at by IRGC border guards and indiscriminately killed for the simple act of trying to bring bread, food and medication to people on the Iranian side.
I want to mention two more people, whom I politically sponsored, a practice that is often done in the European Union by politicians in international governments. They are Mohammad Amin Akhlaghi and Amir Mohammad Jafari. Both of these individuals were peaceful protesters. They were simply standing up for their right just to be heard, as citizens of their country. In their cases, the first one now has a retrial; the second one was sentenced to death, which was commuted to a prolonged imprisonment and it is unclear how long he will be in jail. They are another two victims of the IRGC, so why do we not list it as a terrorist group? None of these people have done anything violent. They simply stood up for their rights.
The list goes on. There was an Iranian soccer player who was sentenced to death, Amir Nasr-Azadani, for the simple act of disagreeing with his government and saying that his government was wrong in the suppression and oppression of women in Iran, and how it is doing it. That is another victim of the IRGC, a terror group. He is being victimized by the IRGC and faces a death sentence.
We have often heard in these videos, and I have many Persian friends and Kurdish friends who send me these videos from different cities in Iran, women and men chanting “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” or “Women, Life, Freedom.” It is a very basic ask that they are calling for here.
We have an Islamic regime based in Tehran that is completely disconnected from its own citizens, and, what is more, it exports its violence and terrorism to other parts of the world and intimidates Canadians right here in our country. I have met with Canadians in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and PoCo who are all worried. They self-censor sometimes, because they are worried.
The diaspora community in Canada has never been more united than it is right now. There was a major rally in Toronto this weekend with many speakers speaking on freedom for Iran. A free Iran is what they aspire to, including the very well-known Masih Alinejad, an Iranian American journalist. She has harrowing tales of being persecuted by the IRGC, including a kidnapping plot that was broken up by the FBI in the United States. She travels with security now, because the IRGC is actively looking to kidnap her or murder her for the simple act of standing up for the rights of women and men in Iran.
This is not a regime we should do business with. This is not a regime we should countenance. This is not a regime we should have half measures with. A person of integrity would list the IRGC as a terror group. It is the last, final act we need to do.
I want to mention a few more things on this particular issue and another four names, another four victims of the IRGC terror group. These come from a friend of mine, Reza Niarian, from Vancouver. The four names are Pejman Fatehi, Mohsen Mazloum, Mohammad Faramarzi and Wafa Azarbar. All four face the death penalty. Their great crime is organizing for a political party. We all know people on both sides who organize for political parties here in Canada. It is a basic freedom, the freedom of association to organize for a political purpose. They were not calling for violence or anything like that; they were simply organizing for a political party, which I think is a very basic human right.
These four men are facing the death penalty in Iran. Only with a terror group in a court run by the IRGC would this be the case. There is actually very limited information being provided publicly about the charges, the evidence and the details of their case. These are another four victims of the IRGC. This is a terror group. There is ample evidence of the fact that this is a terror group and we should be listing it as a terror group.
We just had the new year, Nowruz. Whatever people call it and whatever particular traditions they have around it, people in central Asia have been celebrating it for thousands and thousands of years, and I hope they spend it with family. I hope they have a happy and prosperous new year, but for the people of Iran it has not been a good start to the new year.
The protests continue. The oppression continues. The random extrajudicial killings by the IRGC militia continue. These things continue, and they keep exporting that violence to other countries. Their agents continue to travel, because it is not as if they show up at the border at Toronto Pearson airport and disclose to the CBSA officer that they are working on behalf of the IRGC. They do it in secret. They continue to travel. They have sympathizers, both in our country and in the United States, who continue to intimidate Canadians of Iranian heritage, Persian heritage or Kurdish heritage.
I am glad we could debate this today as a follow-up to what has been happening since September, because we continue to call on the government to list the IRGC or Sepah as a terror group. The government needs to do, as in the Yiddish proverb, what a mensch would do. I strongly believe that a person of integrity would list it immediately as a terror group. If there are changes that need to be made to the laws, the government has had since September to make them. There has been ample time to change our laws so that IRGC conscripts, those unfortunate souls who are conscripted by his terror group, would not be affected by listing them as a terror group.