Senator Linda Frum spoke at ICHR Award Ceremony on November 24, 2013. She delivered her speech addressing human rights situation in Iran. Senator Frum initiated a well-known motion at the Senate in 2012. In early 2012 the Senate moved a motion calling for the immediate release of all unlawfully incarcerated political prisoners in Iran. 25 Senators adopted a prisoner and read their story into the record.
I wish to begin by thanking Shiva Darvishi and Ardeshir Zarezadeh for inviting me to say a few words this evening at this 3rd annual International Center for Human Rights Gala.
I am so moved and pleased to be here in the presence of Hamid Ghassemi Shall and his wife Antonella Mega. Let me first do my duty – and indeed it is a great honour for me to have this duty –by bringing you greetings and best wishes on behalf of the Government of Canada. As you know, few countries in the world are as committed as is Canada to the principles of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights in Iran. I am proud to be a colleague of Prime Minister Harper and Foreign Minister Baird – both of whom have distinguished themselves on the world stage by being forceful and emphatic champions for the cause of justice for the people of Iran.
But tonight I am here to pay tribute to you. There can be no higher calling, no greater purpose than to fight for our fellow human beings who are persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed either for their personal beliefs or because they have had the misfortune to run afoul of a vicious authoritarian regime.
Your work with the International Center for Human Rights on behalf of these victims brings their plight into the light of day for all to see.
Your work fighting for the liberty of those unjustly incarcerated and often cruelly tortured – makes it harder for brutal oppressors to continue their dirty work in the dark.
Your activism helps focus the attention of the world’s democracies on the ugly realities that exist elsewhere. All that you do gives us hope that one day the people of Iran and all those living under the thumb of other despotic regimes, will one day enjoy the same freedom, safety, and human dignity that we enjoy here in Canada.
This is not a forlorn hope. It is a sacred mission which demands success.
Tonight, it is deeply moving for me to finally meet Hamid Ghassemi-Shall as well as his wife, Antonella Mega, who worked so hard for his release. We know that Hamid is here today largely because of Antonella’s tireless work – as well as that of so many others in this room. Antonella and I spoke many times over the years, but I know I was just one of many public officials that she reached out to, lobbied and pressured (in the best way possible) to secure Hamid’s release.
In 2012 we know that The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion asking Iran to grant clemency to Hamid, to release him and to return to its international human rights obligations. And while this was clearly the expression of the heartfelt sentiments of all Canadians it happened because of the efforts of so many in this room. Kudos and applause to you.
For my part, I am proud of the efforts that were made in the Senate of Canada. In early 2012 my colleagues in the Senate joined me to move a motion calling for the immediate release of all unlawfully incarcerated political prisoners in Iran. 25 Senators adopted a prisoner and read their story into the record. In my case my prisoner was Hamid Ghasemmi Shall. And Hamid, it brings joy to my heart and tears to my eyes to see you alive and well in this banquet hall tonight back in Canada where you belong.
And still, while we rejoice in Hamid’s freedom, we remain crushed by the knowledge that so many others still suffer, even as we speak.
So tonight I want to pay tribute to them. We do not forget them.
I want to pay tribute to Hamid and Antonella for their brave struggle – and for the struggle that I know is still ahead of them as they absorb and assimilate this terrible crime that has been perpetrated upon them.
But most of all, above all, tonight, I pay tribute to you: the friends, supporters, volunteers, donors and activists at the International Center for Human Rights. Your work is noble. Your work is essential. I salute you and wish you continued strength and success.