Protesters urge Trump to reject compromise with Iran

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Protesters began gathering near the UN headquarters in Manhattan last week and have maintained a daily vigil. (Courtesy: the OIAC Organization of Iranian American Communities)
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Protesters began gathering near the UN headquarters in Manhattan last week and have maintained a daily vigil. (Courtesy: the OIAC Organization of Iranian American Communities)
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President Donald Trump addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York. (Reuters)
Updated 24 September 2019

Protesters urge Trump to reject compromise with Iran

  • Protesters began gathering near the UN headquarters in Manhattan last week and have maintained a daily vigil
  • They hope of reminding President Trump, American officials and UN delegates of Iran’s history of terrorism

NEW YORK: Thousands of members of a coalition of Iranian American organizations vowed to confront Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when he addresses the UN on Wednesday reminding the world of the more than 120,000 political dissidents and democracy advocates who have been murdered by Iran’s government over the past 40 years.

Protesters began gathering near the UN headquarters in Manhattan last week and have maintained a daily vigil. Their numbers will continue to grow, according to the Political Director for the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC) which coordinates anti-regime activism in the US.

Dr. Majid Sadeghpour said the world community “should not be fooled” by false gestures of goodwill from Iran’s representatives. “No amount of economic and political concessions can moderate the behavior of this medieval regime. The mullahs understand only the language of power and firmness. Maximum pressure must be applied to help the Iranian people free themselves from the yoke of the mullahs,” he added.

“We began protesting last week in anticipation of the opening of the UN General Assembly’s 74th Session and the appearance of Iran’s officials, and we will continue protesting until the Iranian regime is held responsible for its ongoing atrocities against the people of Iran,” Sadeghpour said.

“We will be here in numbers when officials of the Iranian regime are expected to address the UN on Wednesday.”

Sadeghpour said protesters have maintained daily vigils since last week in the hope of reminding President Trump, American officials and UN delegates of Iran’s history of terrorism and brutality against its people.

He said Trump and the UN must “reject the false pretenses of moderation” by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his representatives.

Trump had originally taken a strong public stand against Iran, accusing them of engaging in terrorism and violence, and then seemed to soften two weeks ago when he said he would meet Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani if he came to the opening session of the UN General Assembly’s 74th year.

But a week ago, after a coordinated drone and cruise missile attack targeted Saudi Aramco oil fields along the Yemen coast, Trump said America’s military was “locked and loaded,” suggesting America was ready to go to war with Iran. Trump said he would move to block Rouhani and his regime from attending the UN meeting in New York, but later relented.

The assault by the 25 drones and multiple missiles took early on Saturday, Sept. 14. During a press briefing this week in Riyadh, coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the assaults forced Saudi Arabia to shut down half of its oil production.

Saudi officials, including Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeebah, the head of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, have said the sophisticated, technologically coordinated attacks in Abqaiq and Khurais were “too complex” to be orchestrated only by the Houthi militias.

“Iran is behind many attacks against the region. The UN should take action. There should be a resolution against Iran. The involvement of the UN delivers a message,” Al-Rabeeah said on Wednesday during a press briefing to outline Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian efforts in Yemen where Iran-backed Houthi militias have targeted civilians, aid workers and coalition forces.

Calling Rouhani a “murderous moderate,” Sadeghpour said Rouhani and other Iranian regime officials should be held accountable for the killings of the more than 120,000 Iranian civilians, including 30,000 murdered during a nationwide purge in 1988.

Nine years after taking control of Iran from the former leader, the Shah of Iran, the Iranian regime under the direction of Ayatollah Khomeini, ordered a purge of dissidents demanding democracy. The crackdown began on July 19, 1988, and continued throughout the country for nearly five months. Because so many people were taken prisoner, Iran used construction cranes to hang the victims at half-hour intervals.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has addressed protests against the Iranian regime in the past, is expected to join former Senator Joseph Lieberman in speaking to the protesters at the anti-regime rallies.


Protests in US put racial discrimination in Canada under scrutiny

Updated 06 June 2020

Protests in US put racial discrimination in Canada under scrutiny

  • Discrimination against Canadian blacks and Arabs ranges from higher unemployment to hate crimes
  • Trudeau’s reputation as a diversity champion was punctured last year by multiple images of him in black makeup

DUBAI: The protests across the US over the death of George Floyd while in police custody have prompted its northern neighbor with a nicer image to acknowledge discrimination within its own borders. Only time will tell, though, whether Canada’s next step will be honest self-searching and concrete action to defend its reputation — especially among Arabs and Muslims — as a fair and tolerant society.

So far, what Canada has mainly shown is that a history of moral posturing greatly diminishes a politician’s ability to provide credible leadership on the problem of anti-black racism. Otherwise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not have reacted the way he did during a news conference in Ottawa when asked to comment on US President Donald Trump’s call to use military action as violence and looting eclipsed protests over Floyd’s death.

The former drama teacher paused for 21 seconds, opening his mouth a few times to speak. The pregnant pause caused many to wonder whether Trudeau was making a deliberate point with his silence, fearful of taking on Trump, or he was literally at a loss for words, perhaps recalling his own blackface scandals.

On Friday, Trudeau made a dramatic appearance at a protest in Ottawa (pictured above), where he joined the crowd in kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds — which is how long a Minneapolis police officer held down Floyd with his knee on his neck before he died — clapped to chants of “Black lives matter” and collected a T-shirt emblazoned with the same slogan on the front.

Such gestures are perhaps only to be expected of a white politician whose carefully crafted image as a champion of inclusivity and diversity was punctured last year by the appearance of multiple images of him in black makeup, laughing, making faces and sticking his tongue out.

The tradition of brownface and blackface — white people painting their faces darker — was common in North America until it came to be viewed by the turn of the 21st century as a racist caricature. However, systemic inequalities that plague Canada’s black and indigenous communities have proved far more resistant to change.

Last weekend in Toronto, protesters held a rally over the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a black woman who fell to her death last week while police were in her apartment, an incident that is being probed by the province’s Special Investigations Unit.

People who were identified as family and friends of Regis Korchinski-Paquet (no names provided) lead protesters as they march to highlight the deaths in the U.S. of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and of Toronto's Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who died after falling from an apartment building while police officers were present, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada May 30, 2020. (Reuters)

A CBC News investigation of fatal encounters with police found that black people made up 36.5 percent of the deaths involving Toronto police from 2000-2017, while accounting for only 8.3 percent of the city’s population.

Canada is also no stranger to prejudice against Arabs and Muslims. Most recently, some cities’ decision to suspend their noise bylaws during Ramadan to permit mosques to broadcast the sunset call to prayer sparked a backlash, drawing some racist rants on Twitter. 

In 2017, university student Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six Muslims in a Quebec City mosque, in what Trudeau called “a despicable act of terror.”

In 2017, university student Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six Muslims in a Quebec City mosque. (Facebook)
Montreal mayor Denis Coderre (L-R), Quebec City mayor Regis Labeaume, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pay their respects during a funeral ceremony for three of the victims of the deadly shooting at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, in Montreal, Quebec on February 2, 2017. (AFP/File Photo)

That year there was a spike in hate crimes reported by police, a 10-year high of 2,073 criminal incidents, according to Statistics Canada.

While the most recent stats show a slight decrease in 2018 to 1,798 incidents, the number was still the second highest of that period.

Of those hate crimes, 44 percent were motivated by race while 36 percent were based on religion.

Then there is a less visible form of systemic discrimination, such as the issue of unemployment among Arabs, Canada’s fastest-growing immigrant population.

ISNA Canada building. (Supplied)

“A lot of people here think that Canada isn’t racist,” Faith Olanipekun, an organizer of a Canadian protest in support of Black Lives Matter, told the CBC, the national public broadcaster, this week.

“So it’s important for us to come out, voice our concerns and let people know that we are suffering in Canada just as much as people in the US are suffering.”

A report last year by the Canadian Arab Institute, a non-partisan research and policy group, showed that based on its analysis of the country’s last census in 2016, the unemployment rate among Arabs was 13.5 percent, higher than the total visible minority population at 9.2 percent.

“That’s more than double the national average, so this is based on 2016 data, very important to note, because with COVID-19 it means it’s going to get much worse,” Shireen Salti, the institute’s interim executive director, told Arab News. 

“We know there are employment barriers. We’re looking into why … Is there discrimination in the labor market, on university campuses etc.? There are some preliminary results from our research that show this, and we want to dive deeper to better understand.”

IN NUMBERS

ARAB CANADIANS

- 947,820 people in Canada reported having Arab ethnic origin.

- 90% reside in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta provinces.

- Highest numbers: Lebanese, Moroccan, Egyptian.

- Over 60% are first generation.

- Over 60% have post-secondary education.

Source: Canadian Arab Institute, based on country’s last census in 2016.

Despite being a highly educated community, she said figures show Arabs’ average annual income is about $33,000, below the national average of $47,000.

“There’s a lot of work that we still need to do to ensure the integration of Arabs in Canada,” said Salti, who was born in Palestine and moved to Canada with her family in 2009.

“There’s a lot of government support in place for newcomers and immigrants, but we need to move beyond that and better understand how to cater to various communities with various inequities.”

While standing in solidarity with black Americans, Salti said the US situation has opened up a window for Canadians to talk about all forms of discrimination.

A man walks past Vancouver's Chinese Cultural Centre, which was targeted with vandalism during the Covid-19 pandemic, prompting police to erect mobile surveillance cameras, on May 21, 2020 in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AFP)

“It’s important to take a moment to pause and listen to the important messages that are being shared right now,” she added.

“We need to be anti-racist in a society where we have multiple communities, and diverse communities, and multiculturalism is literally at the heart of what we do here in Canada.”

Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, who was Canada’s prime minister for more than 15 years, had the vision to make the country the first in the world to adopt an official policy of multiculturalism in 1971, later enshrined in law.

This allowed its citizens to preserve their own cultural heritage while being protected from discrimination.

In this file photo Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill to attend a sitting of the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, May 20, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. (AFP/File Photo)

Justin has had a harder time convincing people that he walks his talk as Canada’s woke leader. He got points for introducing the first gender-balanced Cabinet in the country’s history in 2015, which was also ethnically diverse.

He offered apologies to Canada’s aboriginals for their abuse dating back more than a century, and he welcomed Syrian refugees at the airport with open arms.

Then, while running for re-election last year, two “blackface” photos and a video raised troubling questions about the character of a politician who rose to high office on a platform of social justice, gender equality and indigenous and minority rights.

At the June 2 news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau said he had "spoken many times about how deeply I regret my actions hurt many, many people," before going on to state: “There’s systemic discrimination in Canada, which means our systems treat Canadians of color, Canadians who are racialized, differently than they do others.”

Protesters march to highlight the deaths in the U.S. of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and of Toronto's Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who died after falling from an apartment building while police officers were present, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada May 30, 2020. (Reuters)

Not everyone was impressed. Jagmeet Singh, the outspoken leader of Canada’s NDP Party, said Trudeau’s government could immediately take actions that “go beyond the pretty words of a prime minister who says that he cares.”

Trudeau’s own cabinet minister, Ahmed Hussen, a Somali Canadian, was more specific: He lamented that black Canadians were disproportionately followed in stores by shop owners fearing theft, while black drivers had every reason to be anxious when they are pulled over by a police officer.

Racism is “a lived reality for black Canadians,” Hussen said, as he urged other Canadians to “step up” and “raise your voices and ensure that real inclusion accompanies the diversity of our country.”

The mood in Canada’s black, indigenous and immigrant communities was perhaps summed up best by Salti, of the Canadian Arab Institute, thus: “Now more than ever, we hope that all our political leaders and elected officials will do more than simply pay lip service, and instead act and invest in strategies that promote an inclusive, integrated and fully respectful society for all Canadians.”