August 22, 2012 – Last October, ACTRA wrote to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Iranian Chargé d’Affaires & Head of Mission requesting the release of Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr who had been sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and 90 lashes for her performance in the film My Tehran For Sale. The South Australian-produced film was shot in the Iranian capital and tells the story of a young actress whose stage work is banned by authorities.
On 24 October 2011, it was reported by Amnesty International that an Iranian appeals court had reduced Vafamehr’s prison sentence to three months and overturned the flogging sentence – in large part due to international pressure and exposure. She was released after 118 days but was banned from making or performing in films and from leaving Iran.
Today we finally received a response form the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs – below.
Our original appeal and letters can be found here.
August 22, 2012
Ms. Ferne Downey
Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists
Dear Ms. Downey:
Thank you for your email of October 17, 2011, concerning the case of Ms.
Marzieh Vafamehr. I regret the delay in replying to you.
The promotion and protection of human rights internationally is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy. Canada stands up for human rights and takes principled positions on important issues to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
On September 22, 2011, I was deliberately absent when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. My absence signalled that Canada will not give an audience to Iran’s hateful, anti-Western, anti-Semitic views. Iranian rhetoric on the world stage does nothing to address the real and pressing concerns of the Iranian people; instead, it creates regional instability. Iran’s leaders regularly demonstrate flagrant disregard for human rights, including the freedoms of religion and speech. Iran is increasingly isolated from the international community in this regard.
I have issued numerous statements voicing Canada’s concern about human rights in Iran. On July 8, 2011, I made a statement expressing Canada’s support for increasing restrictions on the Iranian authorities to hold them accountable for their international human rights obligations. On January 29, 2012, I called on Iran to reverse its course and meet its international human rights obligations and release prisoners who have failed to receive fair and transparent legal treatment. You may read my statements at http://www.international.gc.ca/media/index.aspx?lang’eng&view=d.
Since you wrote, Ms. Vafamehr has been released. Nevertheless, Canada’s concerns about human rights in Iran are long-standing. As part of its ongoing efforts to promote respect for human rights in the country, Canada once again led the resolution “Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran” at the fall 2011 session of UNGA. This is the ninth consecutive year Canada has led this initiative. In December 2011, UNGA adopted this resolution, with 89 member states supporting the vote and only 30 member states voting against it. This represented the largest margin of adoption since Canada assumed lead of this resolution in 2003. The resolution highlights serious ongoing and recurring violations of human rights by the Iranian authorities. It calls on Iran to address the substantive concerns highlighted in the report of United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the specific calls for action found in previous UNGA resolutions.
The resolution expresses deep concerns about the ongoing, systemic and serious restrictions of freedom of opinion and expression, including those imposed on artists and filmmakers and calls on Iran to end such restrictions. Canada believes that the adoption of this resolution provides comfort to human rights defenders in Iran as it reminds them that they are not alone in their struggle to attain their human rights.
You may read the full text of the resolution (A/RES/66/175) at http://www.un.org/en/ga/66/resolutions.shtml.
In March 2011, the UN Human Rights Council voted to establish a special rapporteur to investigate and report on the human rights situation in Iran. Canada co-sponsored this initiative. The 2011 UNGA resolution welcomes the appointment of the Special Rapporteur and calls on Iran to positively avail itself of the opportunity to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and other international human rights mechanisms.
I can assure you that the Government of Canada will continue to monitor the situation in Iran very closely, and to express concerns about human rights in Iran through appropriate multilateral or bilateral forums.
Thank you for taking the time to write and express your concerns.
John Baird, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs