Monday, August 4, 2014

Residences of Gaza are not deserved to be killed,

August first, was a terrifying day at work. One of my colleagues, after reading the news that the 72 hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had abruptly ended, according to Israeli sources, because of the “kidnapping” of an Israeli soldier, became angry and made some brutal statements.

He said that “if you don’t have the power to fight Israel, then you should sit down, stop complaining and live your life”, to which I calmly responded that “there is no life in Gaza”. He then shockingly stated that “they deserved to be killed” and argued that leaders like Stephen Harper were right in calling for their destruction (I don’t think that even Stephen Harper, the staunch Conservative and pro-Israel PM of Canada, could publicly voice such an opinion).

I told him, it is clear example of discrimination: to protect the life of Israeli citizens and soldiers and prevent Hamas of continuing their military operations, you ask for the massacre of Hamas militants. Such an statement when, in last 26-27 days, more than 1600 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians and among them hundreds of children, for me, was intolerable.

I was not able to stay silent; I needed to show him that I was extremely upset about the brutal statement and that I did not want to hear such comments again. After 20 minutes or half an hour, I told him to “please never again talk to me about massacring other people”.

In response he said his judgment is realistic and that I am just a dreamer. I told him it is my choice (1).

I am horrified about talking about politics or even humanitarian issues with such a person. I did not continue. 

Normally, we think that the people sitting beside us, passing us in the streets or living in our neighbourhood cannot be cruel. Hannah Arendt, in her writings about “banality of evil”, is pointing exactly to this misconception. She is trying to show us how a “good German”, one that listens to Beethoven and Mozart, reads the poems of Goethe and Shriller, falls in love, loves their kids, says hello to their neighbours and colleagues, are able to commit such horrible crimes (She was talking about genocide of the Jews, Gipsies and massacre of communists, social democrats and whoever stood against fascism). She is explaining that these terrible crimes, for many ordinary citizens, became an administrative and technical matter, not a humanitarian issue. 

 Arendt remind us that occurrences of horrible crimes (like the holocaust), not only need a government or authority capable of organizing and encouraging the crime, but also a transformation in the consensus of many citizens, who participate in the crime (by killing others, by supporting the killings or even by remaining silent), is necessary. For them hating and eventually killing “others” became like killing germs or destroying a disease. 

My colleague’s brutal statement endorsing massacre against Hamas militants (an organization born out of the crisis which continues to benefit from the crisis) which each time effectively ends in the massacre of the residents of Gaza is an example of making terrible crimes a simple and ordinary action. It is horrifying that a citizen of a democratic country is endorsing and asking for such a crime. 

Israel, either as a prison guard (if I consider Gaza as a big open-air prison) or an occupying power (if I consider Gaza as an occupied territory), under international law, does not have the right to knowingly target and kill the residents of Gaza. Israel is responsible for the lives of the residents of Gaza.

In my opinion, it is our responsibility to unconditionally condemn the perpetual siege/blockade of the territory (which not only causes a humanitarian catastrophe, but also empowers the extremist groups) and the massacre that Israel is currently perpetrating in Gaza.

August 4, 2014

1- I love “Imagine” by John Lennon;

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Some correction to Mr. Glavin Article about Iran:

Forward to a correction

I had a conversation with Mr. Terry Glavin, a columnist with the Ottawa Citizen, On June 4, 2013. Mr. Glavin quoted me in his article which was published on June 4, 2013 in the Ottawa Citizen. The quotes were inaccurate and misleading.
On June 22, 2013, I sent the following email to Mr. Andrew Potter, chief editor of Ottawa Citizen:

Your newspaper published an article by Mr. Terry Glavin on June 6th 2013, “There’s much to reckon with in Iran’s bloody recent past”. Some of his quotes from me are not accurate and are misleading. Therefore, I would like to request that you correct this by publishing the attached note.

Mr. Potter informed me (June 2, 2013) that my request has been forwarded to Mr. David Watson. On June 27, 2013, Mr. Watson sent me the following message:

I’m the editorial pages editor at the Citizen. Andrew Potter passed me along your note on Terry Glavin’s column. I’ve taken this up with Mr. Glavin and he’s standing by the quote and I would be inclined to support him.
If you’d like to write a letter expanding on some of your ideas we can talk about that but I don’t see the need to discredit Glavin’s reporting.

In response to Mr. Watson, I sent the following message on July 3, 2013:

I listened again to the recording of my conversation with Mr. Glavin. I strongly insist that some of the quotes that have been presented by Mr. Glavin are wrong and/or misleading. I believe it is my right to ask for a correction. 
Therefore, once again, I ask you to publish my note in the same section as Mr. Glavin.

It was the last email.

At that time, I decided to not publish the note because I thought it may affect the efforts of those who were active in “The massacre 88 Campaign”.

February 23, 2014

Some correction to Mr. Glavin Article about Iran:

1-    Mr Glavin mentioned that “Behkish said he agrees wholeheartedly with the Massacre 88 campaign and with the work of the Iran Tribunal, a citizen-diplomacy effort at The Hague that has been gathering evidence about the Khomeinist massacres of the 1980s”.
This is not exactly what I said. I am not in opposition to Iran Tribunal or Campaign 88 and I support their right to put forward their initiatives as a voice in movement for truth and justice in Iran.
However, I am critical of their point of view. I said that facing past atrocities is a process that requires active involvement from civil society. I mentioned that we need to be careful about the politics of justice and truth in Iran.
We have to convince the public that facing past atrocities will help us build a more prosperous society. But, at this moment, many think reformists are the only option they have and see no benefit in raising the issue of what happened in the 80s. Recognizing that the reformists, with the strong support of Ayatollah Khomeini, had the upper hand during the first decade of the Islamic republic and that they were responsible for the atrocities of the 80s takes away from their current perceived legitimacy.
It is for this reason that I believe any radical approach may deepen the disconnect between those who are looking for some sort of accountability and significant portion of the population, who think they should support reformists.
In addition I said that we have to recognize the existing efforts being made in Iran by families of victims, known as Mothers of Khavaran, for truth and justice. I noted that they are a group of families who have gathered in Khavaran cemetery for the last 32 years to challenge the IRI policy of isolation and denial. Their approach and narratives is more appealing to the wider public.
I mentioned that Campaign 88, in their proposed motion, asked the House of Common to establish September 1st as the day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran. But, Campaign 88 documents provide no reason or basis for this seemingly arbitrary date. They do not convey its history.
I said that in 1989, the first anniversary of the 1988 prison massacre, the families decided to establish a commemoration day for the victims of the 1988 prison massacre on the tenth of Shahrivar which coincides with first of September in Khavaran cemetery. This is the only public commemoration in a public space for the victims of the massacre inside Iran.
I mentioned many of Mothers of Khavaran were harassed, arrested and summoned by the authorities to prevent these commemorations. But, Mothers of Khavaran, despite all the pressure, have remained persistent in holding these commemorations. It is a historical date. It is one of the main reason why Khavaran cemetery has become a prominent symbol of any movement for truth and justice in Iran.
I think we should direct our efforts into supporting them. I think we need to request of the international community to ask the IRI to stop any type of harassment against Mothers of Khavaran and all the victims’ families. We need to ask the IRI to accept the rights of victims’ families to gather in Khavaran cemetery and all other cemeteries around the country to commemorate the victims.
For your information I sent an alternative motion to 5 members of parliament, including Peggy Nash (my MP) and Thomas Mulcair to let them know my position as a member of the victims’ families and an activist in this movement during the  last 28 years. This is the alternative motion I sent to the MPs:

“That this House condemns the systematic harassment against victims' families specifically Mothers of Khavaran, whom have pursued truth and justice for last thirty three years.  This house establish September 1, the day on which in last 25 years a public commemoration for the victims of the 1988 prison massacre, an example of "crime against humanity”, has been held in Khavaran cemetery in Tehran by Mothers of Khavaran,  as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran."

I put forward this alternative motion because I am deeply concerned that international recognition of the 1988 prison massacre as a “ crime against humanity” will escalate the pressure on Mothers of Khavaran, likely leading to them being completely barred from holding the annual commemoration in Khavaran or even going there. But by recognizing their efforts in last 32 years, the IRI would understand that the international community stands firm with Mothers of Khavaran and strongly opposes and condemns any further harassment against them. 

2-    Mr. Galvin mentioned that “Jafar Behkish says one possible way forward for Iran, eventually, might be something along the lines of the truth and reconciliation commissions established in South Africa, Guatemala and Argentina.”
This is not exactly what I said. At the beginning of our conversation, I said “The way Iran will face the past atrocities is related to the balance of power and who has the upper hand during the transitional period.” I continued, “but what I want is a combination of trial along with truth and reconciliation. I think we need a truth commission and to have trials for the leaders of the Islamic republic, who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the gross and systematic human rights violations in Iran.  I continued that we need reconciliation with low ranking operatives. Because the atrocities were wide spread and it is not possible to have trial for all perpetrators.” To show that the trial of all wrongdoers is not possible I mentioned that in last 10 years, the ICC, with about a billion dollar budget, has been able to try only 10-12 accused. I reiterated the same position several times in our conversation.

3-    In my conversation, I emphasized that I did not want to stand with Conservatives and Leftists that, while condemning some human rights, ignore and violate others. I mentioned it is a slippery and very narrow pass. I criticized both camps of using human rights to pursue their agenda.