Contemplating her image, I note that the bright spark of Zahra “Ziba” Kazemi’s personality cannot be contained within the frame of any photograph. A photojournalist who refused to be restricted by geographic boundaries, every picture of Ziba is radiant, reflecting a woman who lived life fully and on her own terms as she worked to raise consciousness about the human condition in some of the most impoverished and war-ravaged locations in the world.
Yet when 54-year-old Canadian citizen Zahra Kazemi was rolled into the emergency room in Tehran’s Baghiattulah hospital early on the morning of June 27, 2003, her physician was confronted with an altogether different reality: someone had determined that Ziba’s bright spark should be extinguished. Someone had decided that her expansiveness should be crushed to fit the narrowest, most suffocating space. Someone had concluded that Ziba herself should be pulverized for daring to live a woman’s life unapologetically.
“Her entire body carried strange marks of violence. She had a big bruise on the right side of her forehead stretching down to the ear. The ear drum was intact, but the membrane in one of her ears had recently burst, and a loose blood vessel could be seen. Behind the head, on the left-hand side, was a big, loose swelling. Three deep scratches behind her neck looked like the result of nails digging into the flesh. The right shoulder was bruised, and on the left hand two fingers were broken. Three fingers had broken nails or no nails.”
Her doctor described severe abdominal bruising, the result of “a very brutal rape.” “The nurse told me that the entire genital area had been damaged,” her doctor said. There was evidence that Ziba had been whipped.
Canadian citizen Zahra Kazemi died in the custody of the Islamic Republic, after having been under the supervision of Tehran’s General Prosecutor, Sa’id Mortazavi, most recently associated with the deaths under torture of several young post-election protesters detained in Kahrizak prison.
The government of Canada has never ensured that Ziba Kazemi’s broken and violated body was returned to her family in Canada.
The government of Canada did not ensure that justice was done for Canadian citizen Zahra Kazemi, and the government of Canada declined to press a case against the Islamic Republic in an international court.
The government of Canada did not call in the diplomatic representative from the Islamic Republic, state Canada’s refusal to accept the monstrous abuses inflicted on their citizen Zahra Kazemi, and demand that if justice was not served in her case, Canada would close its Embassy in Tehran and refuse to recognize the regime as a government. No. Instead, Canada gave in to political Islam’s demand and invited shari’a law in its front door – a potential disaster for women that was only defeated by opposition from the Iranian left among others.
The government of Canada welcomed with its silent consent the Islamic Republic – the same vicious regime that battered Ziba Kazemi with the most ancient form of misogynistic torture – onto the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The government of Canada did not whisper a syllable of opposition despite its firsthand knowledge that under the Islamic Republic, Iranian women have suffered and fought and paid the highest price for 31 years.
And the reasons for this silence, for 31 years of mutely accepting murderers and hangmen as representatives of struggling Iranian people? Nothing more than humble political and economic objectives.
Today, two more Canadian citizens languish in the prisons of the Islamic Republic.
One, Canadian citizen Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, was arrested, along with his brother, while visiting his mother in Iran. His brother has died in custody, and Ghassemi-Shall has been sentenced to death on vague and misplaced charges of “espionage.” The Canadian government has been silent on Ghassemi-Shall.
The other, Canadian citizen Hossein “Hoder” Derakhshan, had been facing a death sentence as well. Today, the penalty handed down to him was a sentence of 19 and a half years in prison, for the crimes of collaborating with hostile governments, propagating against the Islamic Republic, and insulting religion via… his blog. The Canadian government has done little in defense of Derakhshan.
Should we stay silent in the face of Canada’s silence? Should we remain unmoved by the tears of Ghassemi-Shall’s wife, who has begged for an audience with Canada’s foreign minister and been turned away? Should we hope that Canada’s silence on the fate of two of their citizens will secure for them a fate different from that of Ziba Kazemi?
September 28, 2010
A description of the crimes against Zahra “Ziba” Kazemi can be found here: