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Iran and the First Nations

By December 17, 2012 No Comments

The Mackenzie Institute regularly communicates with several Iranians who are no lovers of the regime in Tehran. Ms. Shadi Paveh and Ms. Shabnam Assadollahi, two of the admirable Iranian women who are the regime’s bravest critics, recently provided a translation of an interesting news story.

The article – drawn from an Iranian news agency – provides insight into domestic conditions in the country. However, it also points out a perceived weakness in North America that sundry hostile interests have tried to exploit in the past and implies that perhaps some aboriginal figures have been amateurishly chumming around with some Iranian government officials.

The article was sparked by the visit of the Manitoba Indian activists, Terrance Nelson and Dennis Pashe, to Iran in October 2012. Messrs. Nelson and Pashe are free to visit Iran for discussions about human rights and to make points about what they purport to be abuses in Canada.

Perhaps the contents of one column in Iranian papers about their visit might spark some reflection instead.

From: Baztab Emrooz news agency, Tuesday Oct. 30th 2012 (Persian Calendar: 09 Aban, 1391)

Title: Native Canadians among the bread eaters in Iran!

Of course it is not the first the time that our government has hosted such persons. After the revolution in Egypt there was a period of time during which many different groups of people were coming and going to Iran and staying at Iranian Hotels all funded by our government. Did the officials of the Iranian government think that inviting these people, giving speeches about them and sending them back to their country with gifts would help Iran benefit from Egypt or its revolution?

Jafar Mohannadi wrote: “A few days ago the leader of First Nations in Canada was the guest of our government and he met with many government officials…”

It was then learned that after this leader’s trip the group “Sisterhood Forever” will be also the guest of our country. Sisterhood Forever is a NGO Women’s group which investigates and follows up on the lack of rights of native women and on their murders in Canada.

The leader of the Canadian First Nations group said that many Native Canadians will attend Iranian Universities and that Iran will host International Seminars about the aboriginal people’s rights in Canada.

The Egyptians were the guest of [President] Ahmadinejad but no one ever thought that someday the native Canadians would also be the guests of the Iranians.

The Canadian government, against its own democratic laws, has committed historical injustices towards its Native People and now practically looks upon them as their second-class citizens. Many believe this and from their perspective, Canada is guilty. However, does this mean that because of this issue, the Iranian people should be the attorney for these native people and pay for them from their own pockets? The Canadian government does not intervene with Iranians.

At this point due to the special circumstances that we are in, the budgets for many of government’s medical, educational, and other construction facilities as well as even workers’ salaries have been reduced and or cut.

This very day, Dr. Ali Larijani, the head speaker in Parliament announced that “the 43 billion Toman budget expected for 2012 (Persian year 1391) is short by 15 billion Tomans. The country’s budget is not like previous years and we cannot just give money to others…” (Mehr News)

Thus, we are in such difficult times ourselves, in many different areas, such as the fact that a large number of workers have not received their salaries for some time. Giving money to others, in the latest instance to native Canadians, is not what the Iranians ask from their government as a first priority.

The fact is that round-trip tickets were purchased for the ‘Sisterhood Forever’ group and that their stay will be also funded by Iran’s government as will the “Brotherhood Forever”, the “Kind Mothers” and “Fathers groups” who will then bring their children to Iran. They will be given bursaries to go to university and every kind of support will be made available to them. Can it be done with all the economic difficulties of the country?

It may be said that the living expenses for the Native Canadians in Iran do not cost much, but with the fall of the Rial, before aiding such measures we must first see if the people of Iran are happy and satisfied with this news and if there are any more important priorities on which to spend their money? What kind of psychological effect does this kind of thing have on the people?

These actions may be effective politically but is it effective when our own wonderful people are not getting paid their salaries and cannot even make the smallest trip somewhere, these people who suddenly at the end of the month realize that the government has cut off their hours and then they find out on the evening news that the government of Iran has paid for the Leader of the native Canadians trip to Iran ….just to insult and swear at the Canadian government?

Leaving aside the somewhat colourful remarks about the treatment of Canadian First Nations – there are several interesting themes here.

Plainly, this news article demonstrates that the sanctions on Iran are having severe effects. For a domestic Iranian news agency to take a line this critical about new demands on a strained economy, it would seem the bite of shortages is deeper and harder than is generally appreciated.

Despite the hard circumstance among the people of Iran, their government is still going ahead not just with its weapons programs and foreign conflicts, but also with expensive propaganda exercises. One is reminded of the Soviet Union in the last years of its existence, where the domestic economy was in ruins yet military spending remained undiminished and the subsidies to foreign communist parties and the international front organizations were unstinting… right to the very end.

Propaganda often involves making multiple uses of one action. The Iranian wooing of Canadian aboriginals serves several ends at once: For domestic Iranian audiences, the act must be to demonstrate that the regime has friends and admirers abroad. For Canadian critics of the regime, this act is an attempt at the old moral equivalence ploy. The message is “Sure, perhaps we batch-murder prisoners, execute pregnant teenagers or beat your photo-journalists to death, but what about your aboriginals, eh? So who are you to criticize us?” At the same time, the Iranians will use actions like this to demonstrate their own keen interest in human rights… ‘Chutzpah’ might be a Yiddish concept, but Iran certainly understands it.

With messages like this, it becomes even easier for a Canadian to understand why the sound of teeth grinding comes so often from our Iranian-born compatriots.

There is another point to consider here. The Iranian regime is not the first to think they might gain some advantage from trying to play North American aboriginals to their own ends.

In 1989, Libya hosted a number of North American visitors from various Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist entities as Qaddafi attempted to build a coalition of various malcontents as a part of his own “third way” as outlined in his famous “Little Green Book”. The travels of the Canadian delegation are described to the Solicitor General of Canada in the SIRC Nizkor Project files and are also usefully summarized by Stewart Bell’s May 28th 2011 story on the “Libyan Friendship Society” in the National Post. Neo-Nazis weren’t the only invited guests.

The American Indian Movement (AIM) was still very much present in the 1980s, when one of its leaders, the Minnesota Ojibwa, Vernon Bellecourt, facilitated the arrival of several visits of AIM members and Mohawk Warriors between 1986 and 1988. In 1991, three representatives of the Mohawk Warrior’s Society went to Libya to receive a $250,000 “Peace Prize” from Qaddafi.

Ghulam Wardak was a Soviet-trained Afghan general who defected to join the Afghan Mujahidin in 1979. After being wounded, he took up residence in the US where he startled American military planners with a windfall — his notes and course material from a 1973-74 tour of study at the prestigious Voroshilov General Staff Academy. Among the many interesting contents of the book (finally published in 1989 through the US National Defense University), The Voroshilov Lectures mentioned that the Soviets long believed they could exploit North American aboriginals for their own purposes.

Terrance Nelson and Dennis Pashe are – within the limits of defamation and hate crime laws– free to decry how the ‘Jewish Media’ in Canada criticized their trip, although the National Post (owned by the Asper Family) gave Nelson room to rant on its editorial page on October 11th. They are free to be propaganda pawns for Iran, or for other regimes. They are even free to collect lucrative ‘human rights’ prizes from bloody-handed dictators, should such be offered.

They are not free to adopt other Iranian practices. Iran has been liberal with its distributions of Kalashnikov assault rifles and training in the use of explosives to Hamas and other groups in the Middle East. Iran’s surrogate, Hizbollah, is also involved in cocaine trafficking from Venezuelan sources and has been evidently providing support to Los Zetas and other Latin American criminal gangs. There is no evidence at all that Iran has attempted to go that far with any Canadian aboriginal peoples, but our security officials will need to be wary.

The company we keep knows us all. The brave and passionate critics of the Iranian regime are people worth knowing. Messrs. Nelson and Pashe will be known for having developed a friendship with the Iran’s tyrannical elements while Iran’s attempt to present itself as a champion of human rights by having such friends as these brings even more discredit to the regime. May they have much joy in each other’s company!

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