Ottawa condemns death of Mahsa Amini and state crackdown on protests in Iran

Canada’s foreign affairs minister is condemning the death of Mahsa Amini in Iranian police custody and the ensuing state crackdown on civilian protests.

“Her death was a direct result of the systemic and continued harassment and repression of women by Iran,” Melanie Joly said in a media statement released Friday.

The 22-year-old Amini died last week following her arrest by Iran’s morality police for “unsuitable attire” after she allegedly wore a hijab improperly. Her death unleashed a nationwide flood of protests over human rights, security and an economy reeling from international sanctions.

WATCH | Protesters in Iran take to the streets

Protesters in Iran take to the streets

Iranian cities including Tehran and Sardasht saw crowds of protesters running through the streets and lighting fires in response to the death of Mahsa Amini while she was in police custody, after being arrested for ‘unsuitable attire.’

Women have played a prominent role in the demonstrations. Some have been publicly burning their veils and cutting their hair in a direct challenge to clerical leaders.

At least nine people have died in clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters, according to a report from The Associated Press. An Iranian state television anchor suggested Thursday that the death toll from the mass protests could be as high as 17, but he did not say how he reached that figure.

“We call on Iran to stop escalating tensions and to refrain from committing further acts of violence against its own population,” Joly’s statement said. “We urge Iran to meaningfully address the grievances of all of its citizens without discrimination and to protect their right to peaceful protest.”

A police motorcycle burns during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran, Iran on Sept. 19, 2022. (West Asia News Agency/Reuters)

Earlier this week, Joly said Ottawa was following the protests closely and called for “a full and complete investigation into the regime’s actions” in relation to Amini’s death.

Other Western governments, such as the U.S. and France, condemned Amini’s death earlier this week.

“Mahsa Amini should be alive today,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday. “We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest.”

Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman critiqued Joly’s statement, saying Canada’s response to Iran “requires more than words.”

“Canada should see the countless cases of brutality against the women of Iran and the violent crackdown on basic human rights and freedoms as a call to finally list [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard] as a terrorist organization,” Lantsman said in a media statement.

On Thursday, Iranian authorities warned that protests over Amini’s death would have consequences. The Revolutionary Guard called on the judiciary to prosecute “those who spread false news and rumours” in an apparent bid to quash the demonstrations.

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