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Chair of Human Rights Subcommittee Disinvited Trita Parsi After Pressure From Pro-Sanctions Groups

MP Anita Vandenbeld, the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the Canadian Parliament, cancelled the testimony of Dr. Trita Parsi after a pressure campaign by pro-sanctions activists and lobby groups, including organizations affiliated with Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK).

A source with knowledge of the developments inside the subcommittee told the IC Journal:

"The Chair, not particularly well versed in Iranian affairs, and who is new, received over the top emails from some Iranian women “human rights defenders” who are to appear before the subcommittee—in this instance, it must be Shaparak Shajarizadeh...saying that they would be too traumatized to appear at the same time or in the same study as Dr. Parsi." The source said the emails against Trita Parsi were part of a "coordinated" campaign.

In addition, Shahram Golestaneh who leads an organization in Ottawa called the Iran Democratic Association, an affiliate organization of MEK, and their supporters also pressured the subcommittee to cancel Dr. Parsi's testimony.

IC Journal has obtained a copy of Shahram Golestaneh's letter to the subcommittee chair MP Vandenbeld. In his letter Golestaneh called Dr. Parsi "a known Iranian agent" and asked MP Vandenbeld to immediately cancel Dr. Parsi's invitation to the subcommittee. In his email he said: "I hope this was just a neglect of the Subcommittee and not a policy direction."

MEK is a radical Iranian opposition group that was listed as a terrorist organization in Canada till 2012.

However, the MEK was not the only group involved in the smear campaign against Dr. Parsi. Other pro-sanctions groups including monarchists and regime change advocates were involved in the campaign as well and pressured the subcommittee to cancel this appearance.

Dr. Trita Parsi's appearance was scheduled for May 14, 2019 as part of the 2 hearings scheduled for the annual "Iran Accountability Week". The Subcommittee on Human Rights invited 7 witnesses including Trita Parsi and rejected at least two Canadian experts and organizations that requested to speak in front of the subcommittee against sanctions on Iran and about the severe impact of US sanctions on the lives of the Iranian people. Among the 7 witnesses invited at least 5 support some form of sanctions against Iran.

Trita Parsi is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University. He was the founder the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). Dr. Parsi has become a leading voice against Trump's policy on Iran, U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran.

The "Iran Accountability Week" is an annual event in the Canadian Parliament to highlight the human rights situation in Iran. However, it seems that the event has turned into an exclusive venue for promoters of sanctions against Iran and diverse opinions are not allowed to be heard.

In response to our inquiries about the reason behind cancellation of Dr. Parsi's appearance the subcommittee chair MP Vandenbeld responded: "As of this morning it became clear that there was no consensus among the Members of the sub-committee regarding this witness appearing...discussions about witnesses occur in camera. I am not able to comment further."

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©2019 by Iranian Canadian Journal (IC Journal)