Iranian Canadians in Manitoba call for tougher sanctions on Iran after 2nd protester hanged

Iranian Canadians in Winnipeg are condemning the execution of a second anti-government protester by Iran, and want Canada and other nations to implement tougher sanctions against the country immediately.

Majid Reza Rahnavard was hanged in public on Monday, the Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency reported, just days after another man, Mohsen Shekari, was executed. 

The executions were not entirely unexpected, but that “[does] not alleviate the pain,” said Mohammad Soleyman Nejad, vice-president of the University of Manitoba Iranian Students’ Association.

Nationwide protests are continuing in Iran after the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman died in the custody of Iran’s morality police, who arrested her for allegedly violating a strict dress code law.

Rahnavard was found guilty of killing two members of Iran’s security forces, according to the judiciary’s news agency.

But Amnesty International has said Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in what it called “sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran.”

Soleyman Nejad says protesters, both in Iran and beyond, won’t stop pushing for change. 

“What these executions are doing are just adding fuel to the blazing fire of Iranians — either students, workers, anyone who is on the street,” he said. 

Mehdi Naghibzadeh, an Iranian Canadian in Winnipeg, agreed the executions won’t stop the protests.

“I believe this will be opposite. You know, you cannot just kill people … just because you want to scare the other one. It doesn’t work,” said Naghibzadeh, who co-owns the Tehran Cafe with his wife, Maryam Nadmeh.

“Everyone’s upset. My wife is so upset she can’t even talk — and not only my wife, every single Iranian across the globe.” 

A horizontal banner with the words "'Woman-Life-Freedom MahsaAmini" hangs above the door of a shop in a strip mall.
A sign reading ‘#Woman-Life-Freedom #MahsaAmini’ hangs outside the Tehran Cafe in Winnipeg, in solidarity with protesters in Iran. (Andrew Wildes/CBC)

Naghibzadeh says there is a resolve in the community to see concrete change in Iran come from the protests. 

“We want to see justice. We want to get rid of this regime,” he said.

“We want to get rid of … everyone involved anyhow with this regime.”

‘Something must be done’

Arian Arianpour, president of a Manitoba community organization for Iranian Canadians, says he sees the executions as a last resort by the Iranian government “to intimidate the protesters who they have not been able to silence in the last three months.”

It’s now more urgent than ever for the government of Canada and “all countries of the free world” to implement more concrete sanctions against Iran, said Arianpour.

His organization, the Iranian Community of Manitoba, is calling for the suspension of negotiations on a deal intended to curb Iran’s nuclear programs in exchange for sanctions relief.

“You cannot separate those negotiations from the atrocities of the regime,” he said. 

A man in a red sweater, with a short beard and a shaved head, looks at the camera.
Arian Arianpour is president of the Iranian Community of Manitoba. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The organization is also calling on countries to expel the ambassadors and representatives of the Islamic Republic.

“They’re not diplomats, they’re troublemakers,” sais Arianpour.

His organization also wants the United Nations to speed up the fact-finding mission it announced in November to investigate human rights abuses in Iran, particularly against women and children. 

“Although the passing of the resolution related to this mission is a landmark, time is of essence,” Arianpour said. 

“In the last 43 years, mostly the international community has been watching, and enough is enough. Something must be done [or] more and more people will die.”

Arianpour says he feels “lucky to be living in a free, democratic country,” with people known for their compassion, and who vocally support Iranians and Iranian Canadians.

But there’s still a need for greater awareness about just how bad the human rights crisis is there, he said.

“I think there is still a significant percentage of people here in Canada that do not know the details of these ruthless atrocities that are happening.”

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