On the 11th of July 2003, the Government of Iran officially announced the death of Ziba Kazemi, Canadian photojournalist.
The agents of the Iranian government have beaten and tortured her, because she was faithful to the truth, because she was doing her work.
The Government of Iran thus inscribed one more time its systematic violation of Human Rights in the pages of History.
It shrugs its shoulders: it did it thousands of times before, and, with the almost unanimous silence of the international community, the absence of concrete measures from the Government of Canada, it continues.
Despite the unanimous protest of Ziba Kazemi's family, her body has still not been repatriated to her home, in Montreal, Canada.
As for the murderers, they're still governing the country.
I like the simple, peaceful and soft way in which this has been been written. It is a very conservative introduction, but it says it all.
I, Stephan Kazemi, wrote it in 2003, in the earlier stage of this case, shortly after my mother's... I really don't know how to call it anymore, but the informational and adequate words would be murdered intentionally under torture by the Islamic Republic of Iran. I wrote it soon after my mother's murder and nine years later, in 2012, it is still as valid and true as it was nine years ago in 2003.
Today, I don't feel to have just this relatively conservative intro.
I need to resume the situation for you dear readers, with my actual knowledge and experience.
This will be one line, this is as simple as that:
My mother Ziba* was tortured for ‘72 hours‘ and murdered by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Why? Because they could and can.
Because they knew and know too well, the members of the Islamic Republic of Iran, that the Canadian Government and its members and other affiliates, deep inside, are fine with them. That actually, no matter what, our country, Canada, will always have open doors for them, the members of the Islamic Republic of Iran and no matter what they represent in reality. Welcome to invest-wash off much bloody money. Or to study. Canada's doors, unlike many countries, are open to the Iranian government members. For the profit of an 'elite'. To live here comfortably as well, to take a break from all this blood these crimes, or to pounder on them, to contemplate, to send the children, one of the wives, etcetera. There are certainly more details, but I am just saying, they have to be neutralized, by any creative means possible. They won't go off on their own, starting with our own leaders.
*Ziba: this word means beauty and it's my mother's name since she is 2 years old.
• March 8, 2013
The hearing date for the Supreme Court is set to December 4th, 2013.
• March 7, 2013
The Supreme Court realease its decision on leave application
• August 15, 2012
Estate of the Late Ziba Kazemi and Stephan Kazemi versus Islamic Republic of Iran: Decision from the Court of Appeal.
÷ Judgement court of appeal (PDF)
• June 13, 2012
The hearing at the Quebec Court of Appeal takes place.
Great performance from the legal team for the Estate of the Late Ziba Kazemi and Stephan Kazemi.
• March 9, 2012
The Quebec Court of Appeal sets the dates of the hearing for the appeal to 13 June, 2012.
• February 24, 2011
Ziba Kazemi's Estate files an appeal against Judge Mongeon's judgment dismissing its claim. The Iranian Government files an appeal against the decision that allows Stephan to pursue his own recourse.
• February 4, 2011
Estate of the Late Ziba Kazemi and Stephan Kazemi versus Islamic Republic of Iran: decision from Judge Robert Mongeon
÷ Judgement from Justice Robert Mongeon (PDF)
• March 8, 2010
Last day of hearing. Once again, the court room is packed with supporters: some of the audience has to stand and many have to wait and stand outside. In the 5 days of hearing, Ziba Kazemi's defense team, accompanied by Sylvain Lussier and David Grossman (representing the Canadian Centre for International Justice) and François Larocque (representing Amnistie internationale, Section Canada francophone), gives a remarkable and historical performance. Adequate and logical interpretation of the law, with adequate research.
The whole audience is impressed by this grand contribution to human rights.
• February 25, 2010
Estate of the Late Ziba Kazemi and Stephan Kazemi versus Islamic Republic of Iran: Hearing resumes on March 8, 2010.
This March 8, International Women’s Day, will be held the last day of the hearing of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s motion to put an end to the legal proceedings launched by Stephan Kazemi, Zahra Kazemi’s son, further to her arrest, detention, torture and murder by Iranian authorities in July 2003. The attorneys for Mr. Kazemi, as well as those for the Canadian Centre for International Justice and for Amnistie internationale Canada, Section francophone, will be granted one last chance to explain to the Superior Court that this case must follow its course before a Canadian court, in furtherance of fundamental human rights recognized throughout the world and so that justice may be done.
The hearing will begin at 9:15 a.m., in room 16.04 of the Montreal Courthouse, located at 1 Note-Dame Street East.
÷ Our legal Argument Plan (PDF)
• Decembre 7, 2009
Quebec Superior Court
1 Notre-Dame Est
Montreal (Quebec) H2Y 1B6
(between Champ-de-Mars and Place-d'Armes metro stations)
• Decembre 4, 2009
The hearing of Monday December 7, will be held from 9:00 AM. Room is 14.09
• December 3, 2009
The hearing of Friday December 4, will be held from 9:30 AM. Room is 14.09
• December 2, 2009
The hearing of tomorrow, Thursday December 3, will be held from 9:30 AM. Room is 14.09
• December 1, 2009
The hearing will be held from 9 AM. The judge is Robert Mongeon and the room is 14.09
• November 24, 2009
Hearing will be held in Montreal from December 2 to 8, 2009.
Estate of the Late Ziba Kazemi and Stephan Kazemi versus Islamic Republic of Iran
In the summer of 2006, Stephan Kazemi launched a civil action before the Superior Court of Quebec against the Islamic Republic of Iran, its Supreme Leader, as well as the two officials who were directly responsible for the arrest, detention, torture and death of his mother, the late Zahra Kazemi. Stephan is seeking moral, physical and punitive damages on behalf of his mother’s estate and his own behalf. Most importantly, he is attempting to bring to justice those who were responsible for Ms. Kazemi’s torture and death, who so far have enjoyed impunity for their brutal acts.
After two years of procedural skirmishes, a first hearing in the case will be held from December 2 to 8, 2009, at the Montreal Courthouse. At that time, Iran will present its motion to dismiss the case, invoking the State Immunity Act. This federal statute bars proceedings against foreign states before Canadian courts, except under limited circumstances, none of which appears to apply in this case.
To counter Iran’s motion, Stephan’s lawyers have raised the incompatibility of the State Immunity Act with the Canadian Bill of Rights, a quasi-constitutional statute that guarantees for every Canadian the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, whenever their rights and obligations are at issue.
The argument that will be presented to the Court on Stephan’s behalf rests on the proposition that in the event that the action is dismissed in Montreal based on state immunity, Stephan and his mother’s estate will be forced to pursue their recourse before Iranian courts. Given the highly political nature of the case and its sensitivity to the Islamic Republic of Iran, they would not be able to obtain a fair hearing, in violation of the Bill of Rights. Stephan and his mother’s estate are therefore asking the Superior Court to declare the State Immunity Act inoperative in this particular case so as to allow them to seek justice against the perpetrators of such gross violations of basic human rights in Quebec, where they can expect to receive a fair and just hearing of their case, without outside interference.
The Canadian Centre for International Justice & Amnesty International (section francophone) have indicated that they will be intervening in the case to support Stephan's position.
• May 19, 2009
Hearing will be held from December 2 to 8, 2009
The hearing of Iran’s motion to dismiss the case based on the State Immunity Act will finally be held from December 2 to 8, 2009, in Montreal, before the Superior Court of Quebec. The hearing is open to the public.
• May 4, 2009
The parties are invited to meet with the Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court on May 19 to set the dates for the hearing of Iran ’s motion to dismiss the case.
• January 30, 2009
Three weeks before the hearing of Iran's motion to dismiss was set to be heard, the Canadian Centre for International Justice filed a declaration of intervention, raising a new constitutional argument against the State Immunity Act, namely that by denying any remedy to the plaintiffs in this case, the Act is infringing their human dignity, as protected under the "liberty" concept of s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The hearing thus had to be postponed to allow the parties enough time to prepare for this new argument.
The parties will be back before the Superior Court on May 4, 2009 to set new dates for the hearing of the motion to dismiss.
• January 26, 2009
Estate of the Late Ziba Kazemi and Stephan Kazemi versus Islamic Republic of Iran.
• May 19, 2009
Quebec Superior Court sets dates of first hearing of the Estate of the Late Ziba Kazemi and Stephan Kazemi versus Islamic Republic of Iran to 2 to 8 December, 2009.
• November 27, 2007
Iran's supreme court orders another "new" investigation.
Helena Guergis, secretary of state for foreign affairs and international trade, said the government welcomes the Iranian's court's decision to open a new investigation. "Iran has an obligation to the Kazemi family to ensure that the perpetrators of this terrible crime are brought to justice."
• July 2, 2007
A new hearing is launched by the Iranian government.
• June 29, 2006
Stephan Hashemi launched a civil action before the Superior Court of Quebec against the Islamic Republic of Iran, its Supreme Leader, as well as the two officials who were directly responsible for the arrest, detention, torture and death of his mother, Ziba Kazemi.
• February 9, 2006
Iranian Ambassador, Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli, during a conference at Oxford University in England, says the Iranian government is sorry about the death of Ms Kazemi by the Iranian's government's agent.
• 2 June, 2005
Montreal photo exhibit "Contre l'oubli". Censored by the (now ex) Montreal Côte Saint-Luc city borough. Eventually, the national press widely exposes censorship, Côte St-Luc authorities cover-up as well as Ziba's censored photographs.
• May 26, 2005
In Canadian Parliament, the government labels the Mojahedin as "terrorist organization" while on the other end it has never, at least since Ziba's murder, adequately criticized the Iranian government.
• May 17, 2005
Minister Pettigrew asks for fair trial from the part of Iran's government.
• April 19, 2005
United Nation High Commissioner for Human RIghts submit its report: Canadian government should be "making available adequate, effective, prompt, and appropriate remedies, including reparation."
Later in May, the Committee Against Torture makes similar recommendations true its report.
(To this day, the Canadian government has not followed recommendations.)
• April 6, 2005
Stephan Kazemi's lawyers meet with Canadian government lawyers in Ottawa. Again, no concrete commitment from the part of the Government of Canada are made following the meeting.
• April 5, 2005
The Canadian Government finally calls Ziba Kazemi's death "murder".
• March 31, 2005
Dr. Aazam, the doctor who examined Ziba Kazemi after she had been transfered to the military Baghiatollah hospital goes public with his testimony in Canada during a press conference. He speaks of torture giving detailed medical evidences.
• February 21, 2005
Canadian government asks Stephan Kazemi to give Iranian lawyers all his legal rights. Offended, Stephan Kazemi refuses to give more legitimacy to the Iranian judiciary that the Canadian government has already given.
• November 23, 2004
Canadian government returns its (new) Ambassador to Iran. The Iranian government issues statement threatening anyone who would interfere in the case of murder of Ziba Kazemi.
• November 17, 2004
Canadian government sponsors resolution on Iran's human rights performance at UN General Assembly. It does as the resolution is "a moral resolution" but systematically fails to pass its resolution on May of every year which serve the Iranian government with concrete sanctions.
• November 2004
Stephan Kazemi leaves for Stockholm with his colleague Shahrzad Arshadi as well as his lawyer John Terry to meet with Iranian doctor witness who escaped Iran for Stockholm, Sweden.
• July 28, 2004
Iranian government comes with a new scenario: Ms Kazemi's blood pressure dropped due to a hunger strike, she felt down to the floor and died. "The truth only God knows."
• July 27, 2004
Stephan Kazemi and his lawyer John Terry meet with Minister Pierre Pettigrew and his staff. Despite the gravity of the situation, the meeting is most disappointing: the minister demonstrates a clear lack of responsibility and seems indifferent to his duty towards the Canadian journalist's murder. Stephan Kazemi declares to the press, immediately after his meeting: "The minister has failed my mother, he has failed me, and he has failed human rights in general."
• July 25, 2004
New Minister of foreign Affairs, Pierre Pettigrew expresses is "dissatisfaction" at the announcement of Tehran court a day earlier that the intelligence agent accused of Ziba's murder has been acquitted. He wrote in a statement that he is "considereing his options" and that "the government of Canada continues to insist that justice be done." Iranian Government offers $18,000 of "blood money" to Stephan Kazemi. Stephan rejects offers vigorously, taking it as an insult.
• July 18, 2004
Sham trial, Canadian Ambassador to Iran Philip MacKinnon, is recalled to Canada.
• July 16, 2004
The Canadian federal government claims victory as Canada's ambassador to Iran is allowed to observe the opening of the trial. Prime Minister Paul Martin says that "as a result of the very strong measures taken by Minister Graham, the Canadian ambassador has been given observer's status and was at the trial today in Iran."
"That is a very important step forward, and it's one to which Canada and the family are untitled under international law."
• July 14, 2004
Minister Graham recalls Ambassador Philip MacKinnon after Tehran officials declared Canadian observers would be barred from the trial.
• June 2, 2004
In the national written press, both in French and English, Stephan Kazemi addresses former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien who is preparing to travel to Iran representing a Calgary company in order to make business with the same murderers and criminals that he condemn earlier as a leader.
• March and April 2004
Paris photo exhibition "Contre l'Oubli".
• January 12, 2004
Special Rapporteur of the United Nation on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ambeyi Ligabo, submit report following his mission to the Islamic Republic of Iran. He makes two pages of specific reference to the case of Ziba Kazemi, "firstly because of its gravity, secondly because of its exceptional nature, and thirdly, because of the concerns raised by the way the case is being handled by the authorities."
• November 2003
Montreal photo exhibition "Contre l'Oubli", 23 of Ziba's photos.
• November 2003
The Canadian Government pressures Stephan Kazemi to be represented in Iran. Stephan had resist the pressure so far knowing very well that it does give legitimacy to the Iranian judiciary, which is, as clearly demonstrated, judge and parties in this case.
As the Canadian Government is insisting that it will not take any steps in defense of Ziba Kazemi if Stephan Kazemi is not being represented in Iran, and as Ziba Kazemi's mother is confronted in Iran with a lawyer designated by the Iranian Judiciary, Stephan Kazemi, following the advice of his senior advisor at the time, Mr. Karim Abdul Lahidji (whom also was against any representation in Iran), calls upon his friend and former colleague Shirin Ebadi whom Stephan didn't know at the time, like most people, to represent his grandmother Ezat Kazemi in the case of his mother's murder.
A week after Ms Ebadi accepts the case, she receives the Peace Nobel Price.
• October 28, 2003
Opposition group in the Iranian parliament demonstrate clear case of cover up, knowing the truth and possessing documentations and proves, it won't reveal and shear any to the world but that Tehran's prosecutor-general Saiid Mortazavi is responsible for the crime.
• September 22, 2003
Iranian government Judge Ismaeli accuse a man agent for "quasi-intentional murder". The case is dismissed in July 24, 2004.
• August 31, 2003
Canadian government meets with Judiciary Tehran Prosecutor, Saiid Mortazavi, designated direct responsible in the torture and murder of Ziba Kazemi.
• 25 August, 2003
Javad Ismaeli, well known historical criminal, and also judge for this case, accuses two agents. The Canadian Government declares that it is a positive step. The case is dismissed on September 1st, 2003.
• July 30, 2003
After denial, Iranian government, once more, admits to Ziba's murder.
• July 29, 2003
First of series of meeting of Stephan Kazemi and his lawyer with Minister Bill Graham.
• July 27, 2003
Government of Canada declares that it would be satisfy with the further prosecution of the five arrested agents.
• July 26, 2003
Government of Iran reports that five agents have been arrested.
• July 24, 2003
In a letter to the media, the senior official Mohammed Hussein Khoshvaqt, says he was threatened with prosecution if he did not participate in a cover-up of the beating death.
• July 23, 2003
Burial of the body in Iran.
Canadian government recalls its ambassador.
• July 22, 2003
Armed iranian agents intimidate and threat Ziba's mother, Ezat Kazemi, 75 years old, to sign agreement for burial in Iran.
• July 21, 2003
Canadian government insists for Stephan Kazemi to go to Iran. Even as Stephan has been refused access as a Canadian citizen, even though he has no Iranian document as he was born in France, the Canadian government insists for Ziba Kazemi's son to go to Iran with offered Iranian passport. Stephan Kazemi offended refuses categorically.
• July 20, 2003
Presidential Iranian report admits to beating.
• July 19, 2003
In a telephone conference, in the presence of the Canadian Ambassador to Iran Philip MacKinnon, the chef consular for Canadian Foreign Affairs Gar Pardy, a representative for the Iranian government, as well as Ziba Kazemi's mother Ezat Kazemi and Stephan Kazemi and his lawyer Marlys Edwardh, a letter is written and signed stating the common will of the family for Ziba Kazemi's body to be repatriated to Montreal, Canada.
• July 17, 2003
Iranian Foreign minister assures to his Canadian homologue that Ziba's body will not be buried without the family united consent.
• July 16, 2003
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien declares that "we will push that case because it is completely unacceptable that the journalist goes there to do professional work and is treated that way."
Iranian government admits murder.
• Juiy 13, 2003
Foreign Affairs declares: "The dialogues are not happening at the institution level but between ambassador and minister. That's much more important."
The Canadian ambassador to Iran Philip Mackinnon, meeting with the Iranian minister to make sure that the body of Ziba Kazemi will be repatriated to Canada.
The media are covering the murder of Ziba Kazemi since the 8th of July. The government of Canada is receiving a large numbers of calls, fax, letters and with the strong attention of people, it gives more attention to the case, but with nothing more than its politic; diplomacy towards a government that has already an history of genocide and consistently perpetrated atrocity since its birth on 1979.
• July 11, 2003
The Government of Iran officially announces ZIba Kazemi's death on July 10, 2003.
• July 7, 2003
Ziba Kazemi's son, Stephan, receives a phone message in French from one of Ziba's friend in Iran. As he learns about his mother's condition, he contacts with the Canadian government. It doesn't seem alarmed by the situation and advises not to contact with the medias.
• July 5, 2003
The Iranian government phones Ziba's mother, Ezat Kazemi, and tells her "to come get her daughter with a bail" at the prison (even though Ziba was at the military hospital). Ziba's mother eventually finds out about her daughter's condition and alerts the Canadian Embassy in Tehran.
• June 23, 2003
Ziba Kazemi is violently taken into Evin prison cells by Iranian government agents as she was photographing standing demonstrators. According to the report of an opposition party inside the Iranian parliament, she is held for 72 hours before to be transfered quasi unconscious to the Baghiatolah military hospital on the 27 June, 2003.
• June 2003
From Irak, Ziba crosses the border for Iran where she waits for a visa in order to continue her itinerary to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
• April 2003
Ziba Kazemi leaves Montreal for Irak to cover the American occupation.
We are a group of great individuals and have got together in honor of the life, art and memory of Ziba Kazemi. Our mission is to promote respect for human rights by offering an environment and a community for individuals and organizations determined to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran responsible for its crimes against Humanity.
The strength, the devotion and the courage of our coalition are inspired by Ziba's spirit, as well as the people from all ages and origins who have joined us in demanding justice for Ziba and other victims of the Islamic Government of Iran.
• June 22, 2006
Urge Swiss authorities for the provisional arrest of Iranian official Saeed Mortazavi
Stephan Hashemi, the son of murdered Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, today called on the Government of Canada to turn words into action and make an immediate formal request to the Swiss authorities for the provisional arrest of Iranian official Saeed Mortazavi.
Mr. Hashemi stated: "Mr. McKay has said he is disgusted by Mr. Mortazavi's presence at the UN Human Rights Council. He has acknowledged Mr. Mortazavi's role in the death of my mother. The Government of Canada now has an opportunity to turn words into action -- to take the first steps toward punishing those responsible for the torture and death of my mother. The Government of Canada must immediately urge Switzerland to arrest Mr. Mortazavi."
Mr. Mortazavi, Iran's prosecutor-general, is attending the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week and is expected to be in Geneva until at least Friday. At the time of Zahra Kazemi's death in June 2003, Mr. Mortazavi was the senior investigating magistrate at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. Two Iranian government reports -- one a Presidential Commission and the other a Parliamentary Commission -- implicated him in the torture and murder of Ms. Kazemi. The reports concluded, among other things, that Mr. Mortazavi had personally interrogated Ms. Kazemi and subsequent to her death actively obstructed an investigation into the causes of her death.
Article 6 of the Convention Against Torture, which has been ratified by both Canada and Switzerland, authorizes states to take into custody individuals in their territory who are alleged to have carried out acts of torture abroad, for so long as it is necessary to enable criminal or extradition proceedings to be initiated. Mr. Mortazavi should be immediately taken into custody before he leaves Switzerland. This will allow the Government of Canada to take the necessary steps to extradite Mr. Mortazavi for prosecution in Canada. Under Canada's Criminal Code provisions, Mr. Mortazavi can be prosecuted in Canada for torture even though it was committed in Iran.
• June 2005
Kidnapping of the nurse that was affected to intensive medical care.
Kidnapping of the nurse that was affected to intensive medical care in Iran:
Like the doctor Aazam, the Nurse Hadi Sepherlou had examined Zahra Kazemi, he was arrested to make sure that he doesn’t testify (not that he had any sort of intention of doing so) and to intimidate other potential witnesses. Because Zahra Kazemi was in the department of intensive care, this man knew her well and everyone in the hospital knew it. Mr. Hadi Sepherlou is 32 years old.
Yesterday, on Monday May 16th, an illegal trial was proceded in Iran: a municipal court closed to the public and to journalists. The court was only proceeding a murder with premeditation when this case is about torture, illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, and cover-up. Just the judges had their say (who are under the authority of the general prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, the number 1 culprit, who was present in the room, and gave the order of arrest (for what?) –report of the Iranian parliament). It is unclear when the decision of the court will be made for this hearing but it is said two months in Tehran (sentence not clear).
Foreign Affairs Canada made declarations today, the firm and precise tone of which is welcome. However those are not new, this kind of declaration has been made in the past by the Canadian government and they have no clear meaning since Canadians don’t know the exact nature of the relations between the Government of Canada and the Government of Iran. The ministry of Foreign affairs and Minister Pettigrew are still trying to find justice in Iran and this despite all the lies, despite the large testimony of Dr. Aazam and the clarification of the full cover-up of the Iranian government. The Dr. Aazam has publicly testify here in Canada for the murder, torture, rape of my mother. The Iranian government has through its official declarations and attitude, clearly tried to cover up all this case. It is fully responsible and implicated: however the Canadian government wishes to obtain justice from their part.
The Government of Iran has laws but doesn’t respect them, it does what it wants. The Government of Canada after 23 months of implications in this case has still not offered a concrete solution, a concrete action that it would undertake, to obtain justice for my mother and prevent similar case to happen again. On the contrary, similar case are happening and we don’t know if Mr., Hadi Sepherlou because he met my mother, has not received the same treatment.
• July 28, 2004
A test to Canada. This is a test to Canada to see if it defends Human Rights.
What do I think about Iran's declaration today? I'm not interested to hear their comments. My name is not Mr. Pettigrew who likes to find any excuse not to answer to his responsibilities, to my mother’s rights, to the respect of Human Rights.
What actions the Government of Canada is proposing to take? 3 weeks ago Mr. Bill Graham called back Canada’s ambassador and announces that he would “review is options“. Last Tuesday Mr. Pierre Pettigrew said he is reviewing “is options”. Last Sunday the ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that they are still reviewing their options. Their pretext: “before we move we need to know the situation, we don’t know what is happening in Iran - the monetary compensation to the Kazemi family, could be an implicit admission that the Iranian state was involved in Kazemi's death”.
This is definitely not the case. The matter is clearly explained in the verdict and again in today's statement from the Tehran Justice administration. (And again I stress that my grandmother and I refuse this money: this is an insult!)
In intentional murder, the culprit himself is liable to qisas (execution) and if the victim's family forgoes qisas to diyeh (blood-money).
In quasi-intentional murder the culprit himself is liable to diyeh.
In both cases the Islamic law states that if the culprit cannot pay the diyeh the Islamic state must pay on his behalf.
It therefore has nothing to do with the state's admission of culpability.
If only somebody of the ministry of Foreign Affairs had read the verdict, they would have known the situation.
Therefore they would have had no excuse (even though they would have found another one) to say they are still reviewing their options.
The statement of today (available at ISNA since two days ago) is here officially translated in parts: “What the physicians announced was a blow to the head. That the victim was subject to a direct blow to the head, they said that was just one possibility, another was that she had sustained a normal blow and as a result of it fallen and her head struck a wall or a curb or another hard object. There has been a comprehensive and thorough investigation and even the Committee appointed by the President did not find any reason to point to a certain person to have positively committed the murder, except one person whom the Prosecution Service could not prove and dropped charges against him and another suspect, Mr. R. A. against whom an indictment was issued.
But the court acquitted him because: first that the accused denied the crime throughout the investigation and interrogation and trial stages; second that the victim's heirs did not have a direct complaint against him in particular but had complained against the murderer whoever s/he may be; third the evidence in the case-file referred to in the Indictment was not sufficient in the view of the court. Of course, the physicians have raised another possibility too and that is because the accused was staging a hunger strike her blood sugar had dropped, and she had become dizzy as a result and then fallen to the ground. The truth whatever it may be is known only to god.”
I can’t believe that after 10 days the court has resumed, that the Iranians have clearly pronounced their verdict, the Minister didn’t act in anyway, that he still didn’t announce his intention. Ask them what are the measures they are taking? Recall the Ambassador, ok and ineffective, the UN resolution? It had to be presented anyway. What are they doing to do to prevent this from happening again?
• July 2004
Iran has no intention to determine who is responsible for the murder of my mother
We must remember, in addition, that my mother was a journalist, doing the work of all journalists when she was killed. Allowing Iran to get away with killing my mother, and suffering no consequences for her death, puts the lives of other journalists at risk throughout the world. States around the world must know that if they do what they do the world will not just mourn that death, but will demand justice.
This is now that Canada should press for the body of my mother to be returned to Canada, something that should be simple and straightforward.
I want Canada to go to the ICJ, most importantly to secure the return of my mother’s body back to Canada. There are obviously a series of pressures and measures Canada can adopt to force Iran to comply with the request that Iran return the body. Expelling the Iranian Ambassador is one example. I’m sure the Canadian federal government could find a lot of other ways. One or many of the EU country could also recall its Ambassador.
This is the statement from one of the lawyer, Mr. Soltani, to my translator and me: "They (the lawyers) have strongly protested against the court, it has acted in a discriminatory fashion. The court had in its possession a lot of important evidences, but the court didn’t present it to the lawyers. They have asked copy of the files: the video, the pictures, the MRI of the body They didn’t give it to them but they did give it to the other lawyer.’’
He repeats later: ‘’There was a video, pictures, and city scan (MRI) from the body that show the evidence of torture, this evidence exists but they didn’t add them to the file, but they gave it to the lawyer of Ahmadi, the accused.’’
"The clothes full blood (fact): they have it at the court but refused to present to the public.’’
"Soldiers who were working at the prison at the time did some testimony which later have been forced to take back, to change their declarations.’’
‘’Two very high-ranking officials are named in the file: Said Mortazavi and Argmiand. But still they gave the file to be investigated by Reshadati who is under the authority of Said Mortazavi.’’
“First night when they were interrogating Zahra until 2.30 a.m., for 4 hours, and there should have been lots of report about the investigation but there are none, only few pages exist, with no signature, nobody knows who wrote this report. The files says that Mortazavi and Argimand were at her cell during those four hours and there is no written report about there presence, which is illegal: Every time you go into the cell you have to fill up a report.”
• August 2004
Human right abuses by the Iranian government against someone whose dominant and effective nationality is Canadian, someone who should have been entitled to the diplomatic protection of the Canadian government.
Someone who had been provided with such access to protection would probably not have been tortured, and probably not have died of such treatment as a result of the restriction.
In addition the Iranian government has failed to take effective steps to remedy the situation after the fact. It has failed to conduct a fair and impartial investigation to the case of death and to the contrary, has tried to cover-up the situation. It has put in charge of the investigation Said Mortazavi who is himself a suspect. It has even failed in relation to the trial of a relatively insignificant official to allow for open and public access to the file with the evidence that has been gathered. It has failed to appropriately compensate my family and, most importantly, it has failed to give my family even the dignity of allowing for a proper burial, and here I’m referring to my rights for a proper burial of my mother.
This is not only a violation of fundamental Human Rights standard but also a moral outrage and it calls for the strongest possible measures on the part of the Canadian government.
There is no ambiguity about the Government of Iran intention.
It is also a very clear case of cover-up.
• Ottawa, Canada, October 14, 2010
Class presentation on the case of Ziba Kazemi and Stephan Kazemi's experience
• Ottawa, Canada, November 12, 2009
Panel on the case of Ziba Kazemi and the State immunity Act
Hosted by CUSA and Carleton Journalists for Human Rights, Carlton University.
• House of Commons, Ottawa, Canada, April 30, 2009
Subcommittee on international Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs
• Montreal, Canada, September 19-21, 2008
Seminar on 1988 massacre in Iran
• Köln, Germany, July 15-17, 2005
Seminar on Political Prisoners in Iran
• Vienna, Austria, July 8-10, 2005
16th International Conference of the Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation
• Toronto, Canada, October 2004
Conference on the State Immunity Act.
Hosted by the Law School of the University of Toronto
• Washington, USA, May 2004
Conference on Freedom of expression and Human Rights
Hosted by NGO Resolution 217
• Vancouver, Canada, April 2004
Conference on Human Rights in Iran and about Ziba Kazemi
Hosted by organiser Mehdi Meschgini
• Berlin, Germany, November 2003
Conference on the violations of Human Rights in Iran
• Montreal, Canada, November 17, 2003
Conference about Ziba Kazemi and on the violations of Human Rights in Iran
Hosted by Iranian Human RIgths Activists Group Europa America - Montreal
• Toronto, Canada, November 2003
Conference on Human Rights violations in Iran and about Ziba Kazemi
Hosted by Human Rights Activists Group Europa America - Toronto
Testimony of Stephan Kazemi in the Parliament of Canada
Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
April 30, 2009
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for your kind invitation to appear before the Committee to discuss my experience which, to a great extent, is the same as that of my mother, Ziba Kazemi, as she was known to her friends and to me.
I want to begin by saying that preparing this brief was a painful exercise. Too often, I have come up against the indifference and incomprehension of others, who are incapable of imagining the pain that I felt and that I still feel, almost six years later. Too often, the harm caused by the loss of a mother and of her love, in such tragic circumstances, seemed to escape the people I was addressing.
And yet, writing this brief, one action out of so many others, also gave me tremendous satisfaction, because seeing that justice is done is really my only concern. As I see it, where there is no justice, there can be no peace.
When I arrived in Canada in 1993 from France, where I was born, with my mother, Ziba Kazemi, an expression used here struck both of us and got us talking: « C'est pas pire » or, literally, « It isn't worse ». It is a popular expression. Well, my message today is simple: when it comes to torture, there is nothing worse.
Is that obvious? And, if it is obvious, how can Canada give immunity to torturers? What sovereignty-related pretext could justify a decision not to bring to justice people who take extreme measures to torture their fellow human beings, who wound and bruise the human body? To what extent can these rules and precepts be disembodied, dismembered, even detached from human reality, in order to guarantee impunity to those who would mutilate, burn or cut apart this body and this heart that we were given?
My mother was a professional photojournalist. Through her art, she wanted to inform, connect with and educate people. She gave a voice to the people of those countries she focused on—she even gave them hope. Her greatest desire was, and I quote: “to put an end to the quasi-unanimous silence of the international community, when one country legalizes torture and the other legislates absolute power; to break the silence of some and the brainwashing of others.”
With me today are my lawyers, who will be able to answer any legal questions. However, my testimony today is of a more personal nature, and is intended to perhaps put a face on the tragedies experienced by millions of people every day in silence, far from the cameras, too often forgotten.
So, I am her son. I am the one who shouted, who protested, seeking justice. The one who refused to wait passively for diplomatic notes to produce an effect. I am the one who wanted the entire world to know what happened to my mother, and that our government and our laws too often betray us, unworthy of the memory of a mother, her son and a country of openness and respect that welcomed them some years ago.
I would like to quote a brief passage from something written by my mother, Ziba, about her country of origin, Iran:
"For 20 years now, Iran has been transfigured as horrified and dazed children looked on. They see their country bending under the weight of the political illiteracy so deeply entrenched at the very pinnacle of the power structure and which despoils their fortune even as the population multiplies. Iran, an ancient country built around a mosaic of racial, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity. Iran, stretched across a vast land of riches and with a geopolitical status of great significance, the same Iran that nourished the dreams of so many creators and sensitive souls and which now strikes terror in the hearts of its citizens."
So, here I am, almost six years after my mother's violent kidnapping by the Iranian government. After throwing her in prison, slapping her, bruising her, beating her, depriving her of her dignity, and then murdering her, they, the members of the Iranian government, buried her six feet under.
Before the death of my mother, and even in the days and weeks that followed her death, I was very naive. Naive like others, of course, who believed that the government of a country is responsible for protecting its citizens. Today, I am aware that, in real life, that ideal has many limitations, limitations which flow in part from a lack of political will, including inside the Canadian government. In fact, too often, the best interests of the government take precedence over the freedom or even the lives of the individuals who are citizens of that country.
I understand that you asked me to appear today to tell you about my feelings and my experience in this regard and to discuss legislation that we have here in Canada and which gives governments, as well as their brutal, bloodthirsty officials, complete immunity in relation to their victims. So, there you have it: that is the impression and the feeling I have been living with for five and a half years—that of a government that has and continues to make it clear that it could not care less. Because, not only were its initial efforts in vain, but it resists and expresses opposition to the action taken against the Iranian authorities, preferring instead to support enforcement of the Law of State Immunity in relation to Iran and its officials, in this case.
Thus far, I have sacrificed many—indeed, some of the best—years of my life, simply to make an example of this case, of my experience and especially Ziba's, so that these kinds of events never occur again. I am proud to take my personal responsibilities in this affair, and I would like to see the federal government do the same, be it in relation to my mother's cause or in terms of actions it can take to ensure respect for human rights internationally, both in Iran and elsewhere on the planet.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Committee Against Torture, recently strongly recommended that the Government of Canada allow victims of torture to seek redress before Canadian courts of law. The relevant documentation can be found on the website of the Ziba Kazemi Foundation—zibakazemi.org. There you can also find the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Iran, Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo, a man I like very much. He devotes several pages to my mother's case and emphasizes the climate of impunity that prevails in Iran, a climate that we reinforce by maintaining that same immunity here in Canada.
Indeed, some time after the release of his report, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Iran joined with other UN special rapporteurs to make the entire world aware of their deep concerns with respect to the climate of impunity that has yet to be resolved, the same climate in which the worst human rights violations continue to be committed.
I have expressed to you my bitterness and my feeling of helplessness, but I am also aware of and very much appreciate the flowers that have sprouted even in the midst of this field of misery. I am talking about our system, the Canadian system. I am talking about laws and mechanisms that work and that are there for the people. I am also talking about the flowers these same people have planted all along my path, and I now believe deeply that the time has come to plant a new flower—that it is time for justice to be done to the worst victims of this world. It is time to send a clear, concise message to the world at large—that we, the people of Canada, will not tolerate torture.
I would like to see Canada take a leadership role; to see the torturers of this world on their guard, knowing that, from now on, they might have to face their victims and possibly lose a commercial shipment or two as compensation for the pain they have inflicted through their own folly. A futile move? No, because these executioners, be they in Iran or elsewhere, often only understand one language—the language of dollars and cents. By allowing their victims to receive compensation through the Canadian courts, we hit these people where it hurts them most. We will not cure them quite so easily, I fear, but putting an end to the immunity they currently enjoy will gradually force them to stop doing what they are doing. Is there any greater disincentive that the certainty that you will have to answer for your actions?
What I am seeking is justice. That is obviously not a matter of money for myself, as someone who has been fighting for more than five years, standing before the gates of Hell—I, who have been living from day to day with my every thought, my every emotion focused on this affair. I consider it my mission to make a significant contribution to justice, in the light of my own experience, and to turn a tragic event into the seeds whence will sprout millions of flowers, a living monument to my mother's memory.
Finally, at every step on this path, along with the failures, there has been one tremendous victory: the people. We have had a chance to reach out and touch the hearts of people. Even six years after this tragedy, I am still receiving words of encouragement, greetings, letters and tributes from people whom I do not know but who, like me, believe in goodness, in truth and justice, who believe in my mother, in me, who have not forgotten us, and who look to us still.
Even though justice has eluded us thus far, and even though, in spite of the beauty and perfume of the other flowers in our midst, justice remains unattainable, we, the people, still believe in it and want to breathe new life into it. Justice that does not help the people is no justice at all; it is justice that is sick and unbalanced. In Canada, justice means allowing the citizens of this country to be tortured with impunity. That is the reality; those are the facts.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for allowing me to take some of your precious time today. I hope to meet with you again, in the near future, in a world where there is no fear, a free world, a world that can begin right here, in Canada.
I hope we will meet again soon.
• Law suit against Islamic Republic of Iran, Superior court Canada, Province of Quebec
• Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture (CAT)
• United Nations High commisionner for Human Rights's report
• Special Rapporteur of the United Nation on the right to freedom of opinion and expression
• Report of the Article 90 Commission of the Iranian parliament
• Dr. Aazam's report on Zahra Kazemi:
Dr. Shahram Aazam, Staff Physician of Security forces, in December 28, 2002 was referred to work in Baghiatolah hospital as an Emergency physician. (ref # k/612/80/216/23). I started to work on January 21,2003.
In the first night of Ms. Zahra Kazemi hospitalization, I was the emergency night doctor on duty. My presence that night is documented in the nursing report dated July 26, 2003.
and numbered J-00-D-75.
In view of Ms. Zahra Kazemi’s inhuman treatment and considering the Islamic Republic authorities’ efforts to swiftly bury her to conceal the evidence of torturing her and considering that I had been the staff doctor on duty resident physician on June 26, 2003 and that I was her examining physician at the hospital, I consider it my moral and human duty to give testimony and pronounce my observations to international human rights organisations in regards to injuries inflicted on her due to torture, assault and battery and, in this regard, play a small role in exposing the inhuman nature and rapacity of the Islamic regime. Therefore, I implore all free-thinkers who are active in connection with Ms. Ziba Kazemi to assist me in presenting my testimony and keeping this case alive until it reaches the desirable conclusion, which is the condemnation of the suppressive regime of the Islamic Republic. Therefore, I submit a summary of Ms. Zahra Kazemi’s clinical file including her clinical assessment when hospitalized and the medical treatment she received during the seven hours of her first night of hospitalization.
The patient is a 54 year old female.
C.C : The main complaint is vomiting blood following nose bleed.
P.I. : according to those accompanying the patient and the referral sheet from the prison’s clinic, patient vomited following a nose bleed and has had altered level of consciousness for some hours.
clinical examination: patient is in a coma and responds only to painful stimulation.
head and neck: Ecchymosis in the right frontal and temporal areas resulting from blow. left occipital* inflammation and fluctuating hematoma.
The Nose Bone is fractured. Ecchmosis around the nostril bone and Orbital rim. Watery Bloody discharges from nostril. Evidence of Epistaxis (nose bleed).
eyes: pupils in normal state with normal reflex to light. In funduscopic [opthalmoscopic] examination edema is observed due to rise of cerebral spinal fluid pressure.
ears: Ecchymosis in the area of temporal extending to the ear canal, causing the narrowing of the canal during examination as well as difficulties when examining the tympanum [eardrum] The left tympanum is normal but the right tympanum in the upper section is completely fragmented/crushed. The small bones are exposed.
neck: deep parallel linear abrasions, three lines observed in the back of the neck. In examination of the neck vertebra no injuries are seen.
Chest: expansion of lungs is asymmetric. Ecchymosis and crepitation [crackling] of the joints of/in the chondro-ribal in the area of the fifth and seventh ribs may indicate possibility of fracture. Ecchymosis and several linear strip-like wounds in the back. In listening to the lungs no pathological injuries are observed. In listening to the heart, rhythm is sinusoidal and there is no soufflé [murmur] or extra sounds.
abdomen: in examination, abdomen is soft and there is no mass. liver is felt 2.5 cm below the edge of the ribs. Ecchymosis in the left lower quarter.
pelvic and genitals: in the pubic area extensive ecchymosis spreading to the thigh and groin. when the nurse did the Catheterization trauma in genitals was reported.
in the back, in the area of the buttocks and sacrum ecchymosis measuring 7.5 cm diagonally.
extremities: in the upper extremities extensive ecchymosis in the back of the right arm up to the near of the shoulder, fractured second and third phalanges of the right little and middle fingers.
ecchymosis of the back of the left forearm up to the wrist.
The last phalange of the left middle finger is fractured. Broken nails of the left index finger and thumb.
lower extremities: Ecchymosis is present on the groin of the left thigh extending to the anterior of the thigh. Swelling of the right knee-joint and ecchymosis behind the knee. crushed and fractured right big toe and nail left third and fourth toes and nails are fractured ecchymosis of both soles of the feet
ecchymosis and linear wounds measuring 7-9 cms in length in the back of the forelegs (right three lines and left five lines)
neurological examination: intensified tendon reflexes
prescribed treatment: NGT placement for stomach cleaning was difficult due to the fractured nose. The aspirate contained no blood probably indicating that the bloody vomit was due to the blood swallowed from the epistaxis.
At 2:30 patient was moved to the relevant unit to be scanned. The obtained scan showed a fracture of the skull as well as a severe right temporal cerebral hemaetoma, contusion and swelling resulting in ventricular compression of the right side.
consultation with neurosurgeon: Mr. Ahmad Sadidi visited the patient at 3:25. Based on the neurosurgeon's diagnosis sub-arachnoid hemorrhage with severe brain edema caused by trauma. Dexsamethasone for injection and Mannitol serum was prescribed.
At the end of my shift at 6:45 the patient's general condition was the same but coma was deepened and patient was not at all responding to painful stimulation.
At 10:30 of June 27 2003 patient had a pulmonary arrest and required the aid of a life support and therefore was transferred to the intensive care unit.
At 13:00 brain death was confirmed.
A hematoma, or haematoma, is a collection of blood generally result of hemorrhage, hematomas exist as bruises (ecchymosis), but can also develop in organs.
A nosebleed, medically known as epistaxis, is a relatively common affliction wherein there is hemorrhage from the nose usually noticed when it drains out through the nostrils.
naso-gastric tube is a plastic tube, inserted into a nostril through the nose, into the throat, down the oesophagus and into the stomach.
The occipital bone is a bone situated at the back and lower part of the cranium
Montreal, March 5, 2010
• Stephan Kazemi to the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper
To the Prime Minister of Canada,
Two months and a half ago, a journalist contacted me, seeking my reactions to comments by your Minister of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, January 11th. These comments were made in the context of the release of a report by an Iranian Parliamentary Committee implicating the former Attorney-General of Tehran, Saeed Mortazavi, in the death of three prisoners arrested during the protests which followed last summer’s contested elections. In response, the Minister reiterated Canada’s demands that Iran repatriate the body of my mother, Ziba Kazemi, and hold an independent inquiry into the circumstances of her arrest, detention and death at the hands of Iranian authorities in July 2003.
I learned of these remarks with bitterness and repugnance. While successive governments in Ottawa, yours and your predecessors’, have, for six and a half years, proclaimed their indignation over the actions of the government of Iran and the impunity which those responsible for my mother’s murder still enjoy, your government continues to oppose the judicial proceedings which I have launched here in Montreal against the government of Iran, and which aim precisely to obtain the repatriation of Ziba’s body to her adopted country, to fully examine the circumstances of her arrest and death, and to force those responsible for these actions to face justice.
The response of Canadians from all backgrounds to the recent hearing in this case has, on the other hand, been marvellous. The last day of the hearing, set to determine my right or not to obtain justice before a domestic court for the murder of a Canadian, will take place on March 8th, a highly symbolic date. As this day is coming, I wanted to object to your position, asking you to act to ensure that the last obstacles standing in the way of the search for justice are cleared; in particular, the State Immunity Act, which could just as well be called the State Impunity Act. If the doors to the courts of Canada are closed to us, there will no longer be any place in which to obtain this much sought justice, since the Iranian justice system has proven, many times over, its powerlessness and incompetence in this matter.
My mother Ziba’s case is without precedent. Not only is it the first time in its 31 years of existence that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been brought up before a court of justice to answer to vile crimes committed against a citizen of our country, but it is also the first time that it has taken a case seriously enough to retain local lawyers to represent it. It is also the first time that the public seems to be engaged and mobilized, both in Canada and abroad, as the media coverage here and elsewhere indicates. And for good reason. The story of Ziba is the story of a woman, still young, an artist, film-maker, photographer, journalist, humanist, mother, who lived here, and who is no longer; whose life was stripped from her in the most horrific way possible, without any legitimate reason, by acts of absolute viciousness and brutality.
I would like to ask you: what was my mother’s citizenship worth if those responsible for her death cannot be called to account for their actions before a Canadian court? Was the welcome she was given 17 years ago, when she became a citizen of this country, really sincere? Didn’t she fully honour the good fortune and opportunity offered to her by Canada, particularly through her work as a photo-journalist, which brought her to Haiti, Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, Mexico, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Iran, the African continent and many other places, where she proudly exhibited the values of her adopted country, values that she shared?
The government of Iran, which in its torturous and murderous ways is in its entirety responsible for the torture, rape and murder of my mother Ziba, has tried to cover up the affair since 2003; literally, to bury it. By opposing that justice be done in the only forum where justice is possible, is your government not participating in this cover up? Isn’t it supporting the executioner’s actions?
But there is more. Why has Canada systematically refused to bring Iran before the International Court of Justice for this clear violation of international law standards of the highest importance? Your party formerly insisted, when it was in the opposition, that the Canadian government should bring such proceedings. I still recall the indignation of your spokesperson Peter MacKay at the time. Was this indignation a sham? Why has your government not put into practice the fine words of its members before they took control of the country?
By what right and for what reasons have you systematically refused the demands of UN agencies, particularly the Committee against Torture, which require the establishment of an exception to the State Immunity Act for cases of torture, so that immunity can no longer be invoked when such barbarous acts have occurred? Would you support the impunity of torturers, or worse still, torture itself?
Why condemn the government of Iran at the UN in December, when no practical consequences flow from such resolutions, while you refuse to take a concrete step before March which would make a real difference?
Your Minister of Foreign Affairs has repeated the demand to repatriate the body of my mother to Canada on innumerable occasions. Why would the Iranian government listen this time, when it has for so long turned a deaf ear and mocked Canada before the world? What kind of diplomacy is this? Haven’t Canadians and your ministers had enough of being insulted, threatened, lied to and manipulated?
Mr. the Prime Minister, it is never too late to do good and assume your duty:
1. Bring the Kazemi case to the International Court of Justice;
2. Adopt the recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture and modify the State Immunity Act to exempt torture, genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity;
3. Demand the immediate repatriation of Ziba’s body by expelling the Iranian Ambassador in Ottawa by way of demonstrating that you are serious; and
4. Issue international arrest warrants against the criminals who are responsible for the death of my mother.
It is a matter of your responsibility as the Prime Minister of Canada to respect the right of all citizens of this country, including my mother, to have access to justice. If your predecessors or you had done as you should have, I could have celebrated the life of Ziba instead of dwelling on her death; I could have made her heritage known to more people, through the Ziba Kazemi Foundation, rather than having to confront this scandalous government myself and incur important legal fees in the process.
The spirit of the Iranian people is now awakening. It is everywhere. It is this which drove my mother to act with honour and dignity, integrity, bravery and love, not only in the last moments of her life, but throughout her whole journey. I am Ziba Kazemi, like all who so generously support us. I will always be there; we have always been, we the people, the innocents, in their simple and benign journey.
Hoping to convince you to act as duty requires,
From the bottom of my heart,
• Torture and lies
March 31, 2005
• Ziba: a memorial
by Shahrzad Mojab
July 9, 2004
Ziba Award Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Ziba Kazemi
by Shahrzad Arshadi
July 10, 2007
July 10 marks the fourth anniversary of the death of Ziba Kazemi, a Canadian photojournalist arrested after photographing a demonstration outside Evin prison in Iran following the student uprisings of 2003. Ziba was killed while in the custody of the Iranian judiciary.
The most significant international legal case the Islamic Republic of Iran faces today stems from the death four years ago in custody of Canadian photojournalist Ziba Kazemi. Her son Stephan has launched a civil suit in Quebec against the Iranian government.
Ziba Kazemi was a passionate, mysterious and adventurous woman who started her career as a photographer in her 40s. A woman who lived by her wits as a freelance photographer, she came into prominence as a celebrated photojournalist following her death in 2003. She was an only child; she lost her biological father when she was a baby. Ezat Kazemi, her mother, subsequently married to a man named Keramat, who Ziba loved as her real father. Ziba grew up in Shiraz and continued her education in Tehran cinema school and received her doctorate in arts and literature in Paris, where she lived from 1974 until her migration to Montreal in 1993 with her only child, Stephan.
The camera become a tool for Ziba, a tool through which she could express her concerns about what was happening around us. She travelled almost to all the troubled parts of the world: Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, Haiti, Africa and Iran. Looking through her camera’s viewfinder and focusing on little but important details was her way. Her focus was on ordinary people. With a sincerity matched by her talent and guts, Ziba was able to catch people’s human nature by focusing into their eyes. With that she could connect us all together through images from different parts of this world.
In May 2003, she went to Iran from Iraq to get a visa in Tehran to travel to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, two small countries in Central Asia. Her trip coincided with the June student uprising started in Tehran. As a photojournalist she had always reported on peoples’ struggling for democracy. She was a witness.
On June 23, 2003 Ziba was arrested photographing demonstrators in front of Evin prison, where countless students were being held following the government’s crackdown. Authorities asked Ziba to leave her camera and film and come back the next day to pick them up. Ziba refused and protested. She just could not leave her film with them. She stayed there and exposed the film to light in order to destroy any kind of evidence against demonstrators outside the prison.
How dare a woman stand up to the Islamic Republic like this! They arrested her without any notice to her family and friends. She was tortured and beaten, and slipped into a coma. On July 10, the government unplugged her from life support at the hospital without her family’s knowledge. A week later, the Iranian government buried her in Shiraz against her son, Stephan’s, expressed wishes.
Ziba was a woman who chose to die with dignity rather than live with shame and humiliation.
What has the Canadian government done in the past four years? Ministers have put up many shows and issued many statements but they have not done a great deal to bring the murderers to justice. Stephan is still waiting for his mother’s body to be repatriated to Canada. It is his wish to bring Ziba’s body home and, despite the government’s repeated promises, there has been no progress. As Stephan said: “Ziba never wanted to be buried; her wish was to be cremated.” With the almost unanimous silence of the international community, and the absence of concrete measures from the Canadian government, the ordeal continues.
The Canadian government has refused to take the case to the International Court of Justice and confront Iran on legal grounds. That is why Stephan launched a civil suit in Quebec against the Iranian government, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, Chief Public Prosecutor for Tehran Saeed Mortazavi, and Mohammad Bakhshi, former Iranian deputy chief of intelligence for Evin prison. The case was initiated in July 2006 on the third anniversary of Ziba’s death. With great hope and optimism we are anxiously waiting for the court process start here in Montreal.
At the same time, Iran puts up a show every once in a while—a façade of justice—in order to eliminate the civil suit in Quebec. A case in point was Monday, July 2, 2007. According to the Gazette Montreal, “Iran's supreme court held a new appeal hearing on Monday into the death in custody four years ago of Montreal photojournalist Zahra Kazemi”. The Iranian government wants to show what happened to Ziba was an internal matter and Iran’s judiciary can deal with this case. Strangely none of Ziba’s family inside or outside Iran, including her son and mother were informed. They never knew about this supreme court hearing and all the other legal games the Iranian government is playing in order to manipulate international opinion about this very important matter.
On February 2004, Stephan Hashemi established the Ziba Kazemi Foundation to honor his mother’s memory. Since its inception, this non-profit has organised multicultural events and photo exhibitions in Canada and abroad. For the fourth anniversary of Ziba Kazemi’s death to keep her life and legacy alive, it announced an international photography award called “Ziba”. This award is to encourage high standards in photojournalism for single images and for picture stories. The winners of the “Ziba” Photography Award will receive a cash prize at the award ceremony in Montreal.
The ceremony for ZIBA’s Photography Award will be held on September 23, first day of autumn, the day Ziba–Zahra Kazemi—was born. Information about this award will be announced with greater details in www.zibakazemi.org in October 2007.
Despite the violence unleashed by world leaders like Bush and Ahmadi-Nejad, there are thousands of people like Ziba who continue to stand up for human rights and freedom every day. We have to honor their lives and courage. As one of Ziba’s very old friends from Paris told me: "Ziba was stubborn and fearless, she was brave and never afraid to be herself ”. Let us join her son, Stephan, in honoring her memory, supporting her case, celebrating her art and witnessing her life.
Shahrzad Arshadi, a co-founder of the Ziba Kazemi foundation, is a Montreal based human rights activist, photographer and filmmaker.
Torture and lies
by Arne Ruth and Heideh Daraghahi
March 31, 2005
Dr. Shahram Azam, an unassuming, intense man in his late 30s, had barely started his emergency-room shift when he admitted a female patient on a stretcher from Tehran's Evin prison at 12:15 a.m. on June 27, 2003.
Zahra Kazemi was accompanied by three guards and a written diagnosis of hemorrhage as a result of digestive problems. Dr. Shahram Azam soon found that she was deeply unconscious due to a skull fracture and had wounds and bruises all over her body.
"The first time I set eyes on her, she was an unconscious woman lying under a sheet on a stretcher with just a bruise on her forehead," he recalled. "Acting on the diagnosis sent from the prison clinic, a nurse tried to pass a tube to her stomach through her nose, but we discovered that the nose bone had been broken."
It was immediately obvious that Ms. Kazemi had been severely beaten, Dr. Azam said.
Three hours later that same night, as he was taking Ms. Kazemi to the CAT scan, he passed two colleagues who were not on the hospital staff, but had brought their own patients in to take advantage of the hospital's excellent equipment.
"They were terribly shaken when they saw Ms. Kazemi's condition," Dr. Azam said.
"When they asked what had happened and I said she'd been severely beaten, they asked if she'd been sent from prison. I said yes. Before I inquired further, they volunteered information about her background and the circumstances of her capture. I didn't ask, but I take it that they had been present at the demonstration where Zahra Kazemi had been arrested."
It was then, Dr. Azam said, "that I understood the political implications of her condition."
Accused of spying, Ms. Kazemi had been kept in custody under the supervision of Tehran's General Prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, until her transfer to the Baghiattulah hospital.
Mr. Mortazavi, a crony of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was already known for his decision to close 150 newspapers within a month in 2000, thereby signalling the end of hopes for a new political opening in Iran.
Hours after being admitted on June 27, Ms. Kazemi was declared brain-dead. She was kept on life support for another two weeks.
On July 10, Canada's Foreign Affairs Department summoned Iran's ambassador to a meeting, at which it demanded both independent medical treatment and an investigation into Ms. Kazemi's injuries. On July 11 she was taken off life support. Her death was announced the next day by Iran's Ministry of Information. There was no mention of violence as the cause of death.
Ms. Kazemi's family immediately requested that her body be returned to Canada for autopsy and burial. Instead, she was hastily buried in her city of birth, Shiraz, in southern Iran.
Soon after, Ms. Kazemi's mother testified that she had been forced by authorities to sign a document authorizing the burial.
Amid intense international pressure and fierce factional infighting between Iranian reformers and hard-liners, an Iranian parliamentary investigation was launched, parallel to an inquiry by a five-member ministerial committee set up by President Mohammed Khatami.
It emerged during the parliamentary inquiry that Mr. Mortazavi had tried to cover up the cause of Ms. Kazemi's death by forcing Information Ministry officials, under threat of arrest, to say she'd died of a stroke.
There was also testimony, later withdrawn, that Ms. Kazemi had been beaten unconscious within an hour of her arrest, when a prison official tried to confiscate her camera.
An official at the reformist-leaning Ministry of Information, Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, was named in September of 2003 as the suspected killer. Mr. Ahmadi was cleared of the murder charge on July 24 of last year.
During his trial, lawyers representing Ms. Kazemi's mother named Mohammad Bakhshi, the head of security at Evin prison and a political ally of Mr. Mortazavi, as the possible killer.
Four days later, Iran's judiciary stated that the head injuries that had killed Ms. Kazemi were the result of an accident.
"With the acquittal of the sole defendant, only one option is left: The death of the late Kazemi was an accident due to a fall in blood pressure resulting from a hunger strike and her fall on the ground while standing," the official Iranian statement said.
Despite protracted diplomatic efforts by Foreign Affairs, among others, to have that decision overturned and a new investigation launched, this remains Iran's position today.
This outcome came as no surprise to Dr. Azam. Given the fact that three of the five ministers on Iran's presidential committee had known about Ms. Kazemi's arrest and had done nothing to reverse it, he said, the stage was set for a series of smokescreens from all parts of the power structure.
The efforts of both the reformist and hard-line factions to cover up what happened have, in Dr. Azam's view, been laughable. He believes the regime, not used to demands for accountability, has fallen into disarray.
"Neither of the two sides in power seemed to be interested in anything but passing the buck," he said. "The ministers claimed there were no traces of deliberate damage to her body after they'd interviewed us in the hospital."
Dr. Azam cited their words: "It is not clear whether death was caused by a hard object hitting the head or by the head hitting a hard object."
Given that Ms. Kazemi's entire body was testimony to the use of torture, Dr. Azam said, he felt he had no choice but to find a way to tell the truth. He knew he couldn't do this in Iran. "I'd meet a fate as bad as hers. I discussed it with my wife, and we both agreed that we should leave."
He and his wife of 19 years, Forouzan, made the decision together, he said. The tale of their escape reads like the plot of an espionage thriller.
Bound by the rule that bars military men from leaving Iran except on official duty, Dr. Azam had to find an excuse to seek special permission to go abroad without arousing suspicion.
The chronic injury he'd suffered as a 15-year-old soldier in the Iran-Iraq war solved the problem. He was allowed to seek special treatment in the West on condition that he left the deeds of the family house in Tehran as collateral.
Dr. Azam used Sweden, where he has family, as a base to wait for a courier who would take out of Iran documents that prove his case. Meanwhile, he was searching for Ms. Kazemi's son, Stephan Hashemi.
"I did not tell the Swedish immigration authorities the full story. I wasn't sure that it wouldn't leak to the Iranians. I was set on coming to Canada to testify in court."
The months of uncertainty he spent in Sweden, without police protection, waiting for his asylum application to be processed, were far from easy, he said. Had neither Canada nor Europe accepted him, he would have tried to find his way to South Africa or Venezuela, he said.
Eventually Mr. Hashemi and his lawyers came to Stockholm for a face-to-face meeting, Dr. Azam said.
"I told them from the beginning that I was not looking for publicity or a scandal. I'm only looking for a judicial following of the case. I would like this case to be taken up by democratic states and human-rights organizations, leading, hopefully, to the indictment of the Islamic Republic."
In interviews that began in Stockholm last December, Dr. Azam explained why he couldn't keep what he'd observed to himself.
"I'd say that I am primarily a member of the human race, then I am an Iranian, then a physician," he said.
"Meanwhile, I'm also a father, a husband and so on. As a doctor, I have taken the oath of Hippocrates, whereby I have sworn to help humanity to my utmost, to safeguard the health and well-being of patients, irrespective of race, sex or religion."
He wants to testify at a hearing that will make clear to the world what he knows, he said. To his mind, he has observed a death caused by torture, and keeping quiet about it would make him an accessory.
He added that he hopes his testimony will set in motion a process whereby all the available evidence will be collected, examined and discussed by an international court to show how, in the Islamic Republic, a person on the street can be captured, reduced to pulp within five days, and discarded.
"Events in and around Iran right now suggest we are at a watershed." he said.
"The world is more sensitive than usual to human rights abuses in my country. Even inside the country, the cost to the regime of arbitrary arrests and killings has gone up. At the very least, my testimony could force the power holders in the country to realize that they might have to pay up."
Dr. Azam believes that the dominant political mood in the country is an ardent desire for change, coupled with a weariness of violence.
"A friend of mine said that in 1979, when the heads of the shah's regime were executed without trial, and the intellectuals, the political organizations and the general public did not protest, they sowed the seeds of the violence and the executions in prisons in the late 1980s. This time we do not want any revenge at all. We joke among ourselves, saying: 'We are prepared to pay Khamenei out of our own pockets if he just goes.' "
He added: "I'm quite ashamed and humiliated when I hear that there are doctors who contribute to torture, who are prepared to harm, rather than heal. For my part, what has happened and I know about, should not be allowed to be repeated."
Haideh Daraghahi is a Swedish-Iranian writer, journalist and academic committed to freedom of expression and women's rights issues in relation to immigrant communities.
Arne Ruth, former editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter in Stockholm, is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and human rights and a winner of the Swedish Grand Award for Journalistic Achievement. He is a member of the board of the Swedish Helsinki Committee and the Article 19 Freedom of Expression Centre in London.
Ziba: A Memorial
by Shahrzad Mojab
July 9, 2004
Lecture given in Montreal, Concordia University
Zahra Kazemi was killed under torture. She was tortured and killed in the hands of the officials of the Islamic Government. Zahra is not the first woman to be tortured and killed in the prisons of the Islamic regime, there are at least 3000 more names of women who were executed in the last 25 years by this theocratic-despotic state. Indeed if we do a closer reading of the Islamic regime’s human rights record, we observe a pattern of torture, killing, disappearance and imprisonment (not to mention a complex mechanism of social punishments) which have been committed routinely against women and men in Iran in the last quarter of century; and these have been verified by international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Ironically, different factions of the government, reformists and conservatives, both share this record of brutal crimes.
Citizens of Canada and the rest of the world have remained uninformed, unengaged with, and inactive about the crimes committed by the Islamic regime. The state of Iran is not the first, nor the last one to enjoy this silence. The growing brutality of state violence from Israel to the US, to Congo, to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Sudan, Somalia, just to name a few, is made possible, in part, by our silence. Therefore, my question is why are not we outraged enough to break this silence by expressing our outrage? On the one hand, I mean a very plural ‘WE’, citizens of the world, on the other, let me be particular and ask, why aren’t we, Canadian citizens, outraged by the death of our fellow citizen, Zahra, in the hand of another regime? Isn’t this the same question that we have to ask ourselves about the torture of Maher Arar in Syria? Or even for that matter, isn’t this the same question that we should have asked ourselves about the role of the Canadian peacekeepers in the torture and killing of a Somalian civilian? When we remain silent in one case, there are more atrocities to come. Especially, since violence, militarism, and war are now becoming the dominant national and global policy. Aren’t you outraged that after all that has happened in Iraq and the toppling of Sadam Hussain’s regime, he is not being charged with the crime of genocide? The term genocide is not being listed as one of his crimes, he is being only accused of crimes against humanity. Let me be blunt and state that to remain silent amounts to the endorsement of these atrocities.
There are a lot of Iranians who are outraged with the killing of Zahra Kazemi, but their range of option in opposing the Islamic regime is limited; the fear of retribution is a serious impediment in taking any action. Thus, they point at us, Canadian-Iranians, and expect action; they argue that at least in Canada you are not faced with an immediate threat, do something. But, why our response has been limited at best? I think we should seek the answer, in part, in the composition of our community. The Canadian-Iranian community has become more diverse in the last decade. This is partly due to the political developments of the homeland, such as fierce factional struggle for power, and the reform of the Canadian immigration policy which attracted more educated, skilled, middle class entrepreneurs with substantial capital for investment. Ironically, the Iranian government officials and their dependents or ‘Noor-e cheshmy-ha’ and ‘agha zade-ha’(as we call them in Farsi) are the ones who are benefitting tremendously from the Canadian immigration policy. It is not unusual, for example, for a political refugees with the experience of prison and torture to run into her/his prison guard, court judge, or likes, in the streets of Toronto. The emergence of this new immigrants and the growing liberal/reformist tendencies among the activists has blurred the boundaries of anti-Islamic State activism.
The role of academia in obscuring possibilities for active and progressive citizen participation is noticeable. This, in particular is more applicable to women’s studies, an area that I am best familiar with. The theoretical approaches of postmodern and post structuralist feminism, to a large extent, have already deadened the critical edges of feminist politics. With the popularization of ideas of ‘politics of identity,’ ‘difference’, ‘locality’, ‘positionality’, ‘particularities’, and so on and so forth, these theories robbed feminist activism of possibilities of universality and struggle against the structures of power such as patriarchy, fundamentalisms, capitalism, and imperialism. These theoretical positions pigeon-holed feminist activisms into NGOs and state feminism. The NGOization of feminist activism has institutionalized, bureaucratized, and depoliticized women’s movement. Why are so many academics, of both Iranian and non-Iranian backgrounds, are silent about the atrocities of the Islamic regime against women? Why are we in awe with the achievements of thousands of Iranian women journalists, writers, artists, teachers, poets, and workers, but are not willing to highlight the oppressive and exploitative conditions under which these limited achievements are being gained? Why don’t they see the rise of violence against women in the forms of prostitution, trafficking young girls and women, suicide, self-immolation, addiction, poverty, and depression?
We are told that we leave in the age of globalization, borderless globe, and multiplicity of cultures; it is the age of celebrating differences and identities. This, I consider, an ideological war against people of the world. This ideological war is being waged by the capitalist media, academia, corporations, the military-industrial complex, and is sponsored by the state. What I see happening world-wide is the war of fundamentalisms. In fact, the axis of evil are capitalism, religious fundamentalisms, and US imperialism.
In this global order, the institution of the state, the nation-state, and nationalism are not withering away. Indeed, the institution of the state has shown that it can readily deny citizens the rights they have won through two centuries of struggle. It is only through organized and sustained struggle that we can tame the state.
The liberal government in Ottawa has not, in my opinion, taken the case of Zahara Kazemi seriously. The government means business with the Islamic regime or any other state in the region. Ottawa’s economic, military and political considerations overshadow the murder of a Canadian citizen. The government, whether liberal or conservative, has shown how it is the executive committee of the capitalist class. Earlier this year the parliament, that is, the highest organ of Canadian democracy, recognized the Armenian genocide, Mr. Martin announce that his government did not endorse the decision of the parliament. It was clear that for Ottawa the selling of arms to Turkey and Bombardier’s business with Turkey are more important than the decisions of the parliament. In near future Mr. Jean Chrétien will shake hands with the Islamic State in order to secure an oil contract for Canada.
I want to emphasize that the only recourse we have is to organize, and push the government to care about the life of a Canadian citizen, a woman, a journalist, a mother, and an advocate of peace and, in the international scene, to make other states accountable to rules of international human rights. We should break this silence.
Inspired by Brecht, I will remain hopeful when he writes:
In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes there will be singing
About the dark times.
My Brechtian optimism does not imply that the oppressive world order will improve spontaneously, that is, without active intervention. I have no hope that the Islamic regime will change through reform; only its elimination through revolution can put an end to this theocratic regime. In the last two years, the US and the Islamic reactionaries have proved that there is no limit to their brutalities. Rosa Luxemburg’s verdict, ‘socialism or barbarity’ is more relevant today than ever.
To learn more about Ziba Kazemi,
Please visit Ziba Kazemi Foundation. The site will be available soon.
In the mean time you may use this link on your computer for additional material.
Shahrzad has an extensive body of work on her site, including a sound play on Ziba: It is only sound that remains.