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Iranians Have Learned to Fear U.S. Wrath — and Canada’s Complicity

How the government has let me — and an entire country — down.

Nazanin Moghadami 10 Jan

Nazanin Moghadami is an Iranian-Canadian settler residing in East Vancouver on the lands of Coast Salish peoples.

I was five when the Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988. I remember the sirens, the lights being turned off rapidly, air strikes, rushing to our basement in Tehran, or to a shelter. I remember dark nights where no lights were allowed in the city. I remember the alarms and I remember terror. More than 500,000 people died in this war.

I was 18 when the 9/11 attacks happened, and 2,996 Americans died.

Weeks later, after 9/11, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. I didn’t understand a lot about the politics of the region then. But I knew about the wave of refugees who came to Iran from Afghanistan. (We were, and still are, inhospitable hosts to our Afghan sisters and brothers.) I couldn’t understand what could go on in a country that would lead people to choose Iran as a safe haven. More than 150,000 civilians have died in the Afghan war.

I was 19 when the U.S. invaded Iraq. It was right before our New Year, Norouz, in March. I remember watching the flames of the bombs on TV, feeling a strange mixture of terror and relief. I was horrified that we were getting ready to celebrate the beginning of spring as our neighbours were being bombed. Yet there was a relief that we were not on the receiving end of the American wrath. That this time we were spared. Others have not been so fortunate — about 500,000 people have died since 2003 in these wars.

American wrath is what I knew and feared. I had read about the Vietnam war, about the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombing. And now I know about the military attacks on Haiti, Grenada, Panama and Cuba, and the military involvement in many more nations.

The latest U.S. intervention was in the Syrian civil war. Again, I was relieved that my home was spared this American wrath and I was safe. Little did I know what lay ahead.

I remember the liberal use of “axis of evil,” weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, Islam, Muslim extremists, radicals, and suicide bombers in the media.

I was 21 when I moved to Canada as a student. I have spent almost my entire life living in fear of American wrath being unleashed on my home country. I’m not alone; families, students, refugees, and anyone from the region shares this fear with me. Under every American president, every administration, there have been real threats of military actions.

This past few days have brought the U.S. again close to invading Iran. My friends, my family, my community, my hamvatans (nation-mates), we’ve all been shaking to our cores.

Even in Canada, I’ve lived through 14 years of fear, sanctions, travel bans, bank accounts blocked, visas revoked, embassies closing. And through 14 years of the Canadian government siding with their American counterparts. Under the Harper government, Canada also shifted its foreign policy from peacekeeping to military presence in “high conflict” regions. The Liberal government has not done much to shift back.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in his address on the devastating plane crash, emphasized that he stands with the Iranian community and the families of the victims. His words mean very little when he is silent in the face of the actions of Donald Trump. His words mean very little given his government’s inaction on developing a diplomatic relationship with Iran for the sake of the Iranian-Canadian community, and its failure to re-open the Canadian embassy closed in 2012 by the Conservative government. His repeated mentions of consequence and sanctions send the same shivers down my spine.

Last year, I became a Canadian citizen. I took pride in participating in the federal election as a first-time voter. I believe in democratic process.

Last week I was ashamed of being a Canadian. The government’s silence in the face of U.S. assassination of a top Iranian military leader in Iraq is shameful. It signals a complicit agreement with a horrendous, dangerous and offensive action. Assassination does not create a path to peace and democracy, regardless of who is being targeted. The U.S. military’s actions led to the killing of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladan. But the killings did not bring peace.

As an Iranian, I am deeply disappointed. I am disappointed at the silence of the Canadian government and its failure to condemn the U.S. attack. I am also disappointed at the silence at the treatment of Iranian-Canadian citizens at the U.S.-Canada border. Up to a 100 people were reportedly held for hours and interrogated and investigated in what can only be called a fear tactic.

What is happening right now to Iran and its people, at home and abroad, is not separate from what has been happening to the Indigenous people of this land. Whether at home, or in a land far away, the legacy of greed, power, violence and racism remains. It is our duty to stand together, resist and demand and bring change to the way Canadian history continues to be formed.  [Tyee]

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