Canadian Iranian human rights activist Hamed Esmailion, who lost his wife and child in the destruction of Flight PS752 by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is currently prohibited from leaving Iran, even though his parents are permanent residents of Canada. He says he is.
In an interview with CBC News, Esmailion also accused Iran’s Ministry of Information of repeatedly calling his family in Iran to harass and threaten them.
“The amount of pressure they put on families is inhumane,” he said. “What they’re doing is brutal.”
Esmailion’s wife and nine-year-old daughter were killed in January 2020 when the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down a Ukrainian airliner over Tehran with two surface-to-air missiles. All 176 people on board died, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
Esmailion and other victims’ families have been protesting ever since, demanding justice. Esmailion and his family in Canada have privately reported threatening phone calls and online messages to the RCMP that they believe may be related to agents of the Iranian regime. CSIS told CBC News last year that it was investigating credible reports of Iranian death threats against individuals in Canada.
Esmailion said his mother and father were last week banned from leaving Iran for six months without any explanation.
Thomas Juneau, an Iran expert at the University of Ottawa, said the development suggests the Iranian regime is stepping up efforts to silence dissidents abroad.
He said the Iranian government told the Iranian diaspora: “We are watching your family. We are following them. We know who they are. We know where they are. “We know where you live and we’re going to put pressure on them to try to suppress you.”
Juneau said travel bans are a common measure for authoritarian regimes that allow them to maintain “influence over dissidents abroad.”
Esmailion said he believes the Iranian government is retaliating against him and others over his campaign to hold Iran responsible for the destruction of Flight PS 752 and expel members of the regime from Canada.
A former Iranian minister, who was banned from Canada by the federal government in August, reportedly told Iranian media that he would seek retribution against Esmailion.
Esmailion called for the expulsion of former minister Seyyed Hassan Gazizadeh Hashemi after a photo was leaked that purportedly showed him walking along a Montreal street with his family.
A few months later, Esmailion’s mother, Turan Shamsolahi, 73, was stopped at Tehran’s airport by Revolutionary Guards personnel.
Mr. Shamsorahi traveled to Toronto, boarding pass in hand, to celebrate the fourth anniversary of his granddaughter and daughter-in-law’s death. Esmailion said his mother also attends the memorial service every year at the cemetery in Richmond Hill, Ont.
Esmailion said her father, Ahmad Esmailion, was driving her to the airport when she was told she couldn’t get on the plane. He said witnesses at the airport also sent him photos of his mother in distress after the Revolutionary Guards told him he could not leave the country.
Esmailion said her mother’s passport was confiscated and she was told to go to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court. His parents were then informed that they could not travel because the Ministry of Information had evidence against them, he said.
Esmailion said his parents have not been charged and have not been informed of the alleged evidence. Since then, he said, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence has not left his family alone.
“Once you go in, you don’t know if you’ll come back.”
If the mother does not answer the phone, the Ministry of Health will call the father. If her father was not available, she would call her brother, then her relatives.
“They keep calling me and saying I have to come to the Ministry of Information to have a conversation,” he said.
“You never know whether you will go in or come back. There will be torture and terrible news coming out of the offices of the Ministry of Information and the Revolutionary Guards.”
Juneau said it is Iran’s standard operating procedure not to share evidence with regime targets because “there is no evidence.”
“The only evidence against them is the fact that in this case her son is outside the country and is a human rights activist against the Islamic Republic,” said Juneau, an associate professor of international affairs.
He said the revolutionary courts were “not free or fair by any stretch of the imagination” and targeted opponents of the regime and their families. Juneau said people called into the Ministry of Information have been threatened, imprisoned and tortured.
Esmailion said Manzar Zarabi. lost 4 family members He was arrested and assaulted by Iranian security forces in late October while on board Flight PS752. Esmailion said she was among a group of activists arrested at the funeral of a teenage girl in Iran. He said Zarabi was held for more than 30 hours.
Mr. Zarabi’s daughter Sahand Sadeghi, son Arvand Sadeghi, daughter-in-law Negar Borgay, and granddaughter Sophie Emami lived in Canada and died on Flight PS752.
“We are deeply concerned by new reports of threats against the family of Flight PS752,” Global Affairs Canada posted on social media.
“We call on Iran to immediately stop harassing and threatening these families,” the ministry posted on X (formerly Twitter).
Canada is deeply concerned by new reports of threats against the families of the victims of PS752. We call on Iran to immediately stop harassing and threatening these families.
Mr Esmailion said the government needed to take further steps to protect the safety of victims’ families. He said he is calling on the federal government to ask the United Nations’ International Court of Justice to take up the matter as part of the PS752 case.
Canada and other countries that lost citizens in the plane’s destruction referred the case to the International Court of Justice in July.
Kaveh Shahrouz, a lawyer, human rights activist and senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said the federal government could ask courts to take note of Iran’s actions. He said Canada could also ask the court to force the Iranian regime to stop “prejudicial interference in this case.” This is what the Iranian regime is effectively doing at the moment.
Global Affairs Canada said it is aware that families of flight PS752 victims are seeking interim measures, but cannot comment on litigation strategy.
Dennis Horak, former Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said there is “not much” Canada can do for people persecuted by Tehran. He said provinces that want to punish Canadians for dissident activities “will not hesitate if they think it is in their own interest to do so.”
“Furthermore, because these individuals are not Canadian citizens, we are not entitled to formally intervene, even if we have diplomatic relations,” Horak said.
CBC News has reached out to Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment, but has not yet received a response.
“Canada and our partners Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom continue to work closely together in our efforts to hold Iran accountable for its violations of international law,” said Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Marilyn Gebremon. .
Britain was also implicated in the PS752 incident, with the UK’s Domestic Intelligence Director accusing Iran of using violence and intimidation abroad to pursue its own interests.
Esmailion said if the Iranian regime wanted to deny his mother the right to travel to Canada to visit the graves of her loved ones, the fourth anniversary of the plane shooting would “make even more people doubt that they would take her mother’s place.” There is no room for this,” he posted on social media. .