Cotler keeps up the pressure on Iran

By Gil Troy, Canadian Jewish News, 8-4-10


MP Irwin Cotler, the globe-trotting lawyer, professor, legislator and human rights activist, is at it again. While many people around the world ignore the abuses and dangers emanating from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran, or at best make symbolic gestures of opposition, Cotler has relentlessly opposed what he calls “the toxic convergence of four distinct – yet interrelated – dangers.”
While UN sanctions, finally, offer at least some response to the nuclear threat, Cotler notes, the international community has ignored the other three “clear and present dangers”: “the genocidal incitement threat; state-sponsored terrorism; and the systematic and widespread violations of the rights of the Iranian people.”

Recently, on the anniversary of the murder of the Iranian heroine Neda Agha-Soltan during justified protests against Iranian electoral fraud, Cotler once again tried to rally the international community to make the punishment fit the crime, to respond proportionately to the disproportionate evils of Ahmadinejad and the mullahocracy.

Flanked by Neda’s fiancé, Caspian Makan, and the beauty queen turned anti-child-death-penalty crusader Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Cotler released his “Responsibility to Prevent” petition, endorsed by 100 leading scholars and activists, pleading for some serious action. In fact, toothless sanctions and limited responses can be even worse than inaction – they give the illusion of action, lulling us into a false sense of security – as the oppression of Iranians and the threats to world peace metastasize.

The world’s blind spot regarding Iran is stunning. How could it be that campuses did not come alive last year when Ahmadinejad was stealing an election in broad daylight and slaughtering his own people in the streets? How could it be that Iranian expatriates, Jews and human rights activists haven’t come together to launch the modern successor to the civil rights, anti-apartheid and Soviet Jewry movements in response to Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard goons?

The passivity on the Iran issue reflects a broader blindness to evils that fester among Islamist regimes particularly, and the Third World generally. It’s a doubly destructive form of political correctness. The West is increasingly threatened by this unchecked menace, and it’s a form of liberal condescension that ultimately reveals contempt toward others when we fail to hold them to the high standards of behaviour we have for ourselves, and for those who look and act like “us.”

Just consider the table of contents to Cotler’s report. Here are the sub-headings to one aspect of his four-pronged indictment, regarding Iran’s massive mistreatment of its own people. The report details: “The widespread and systematic violations of the rights of the Iranian people, including: the beatings, execution, killing, torture and other inhumane treatment of Iranians,” as well as “the systematic and widespread oppression of a minority – the Baha’i” in particular, the “exclusion of, discrimination and violence against, religious minorities,” the “exclusion of, discrimination and violence against, ethnic minorities,” the “assault on women‘s rights,” the “repression of freedom of speech, assembly and association – a war against students, professors, activists and journalists – and against fundamental rights and those who would exercise them,” the “crackdown on cyber dissidents,” the “assault on labour rights,” the “imposition of the death penalty for juveniles,” the “denial of gay/lesbian rights,” the “murder of political dissidents,” the “failure to provide a system of justice – show trials, forced confessions, denial of due process, [and the] absence of an independent judiciary and impunity of the Basij militia” and the Revolutionary Guards.

Proof that we’re dealing with a form of postmodernist decadence comes from Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University in September 2007. His antics there stirred minimal outrage, until he denied there are any gays in Iran. This homophobia crossed the line, just as the most recent sexist threat that a pregnant Iranian Maryam Ghorbanzadeh might be stoned to death for adultery generated lots of press.

The selective indignation is troubling, although having some indignation at least marks an improvement. Cotler should stop being a lonely prophet – not because he stills his voice, but because finally, belatedly, but justifiably, millions start heeding his call to conscience, and his warnings to act collectively against Iran, before it’s too late.

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