POLITICS

Baird salutes 'courageous' Iranian voters in open letter

06/21/2013 05:35 EDT | Updated 08/21/2013 05:12 EDT
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued an open letter to Iranians Friday, congratulating them for courageously voting in last week's election and challenging the regime to listen to its people and "open up."

Baird had earlier issued a statement on June 15 in the wake of the election that said the election results were "meaningless." The statement said only regime-friendly candidates were allowed to participate and that none of them represented a real alternative for Iranian voters.

"Given the regime's manipulation of the collective will and democratic process, the results of the June 14 vote are effectively meaningless," Baird said in the earlier statement. It went on to say that Canada stands with Iranians who are pushing for real reforms and respect for human rights.

Baird's office said Friday the open letter is meant to elaborate on the government's position on the election results to say the act of voting was courageous and meaningful but the results were not because Iranians didn't have "a real choice."

Here is the text of the letter:

Salam,

Canada has been listening to the voices of all those inside Iran who voted for hope, and a brighter future in Iran's Presidential elections. Only the people of Iran can determine the meaning of the elections, and an overwhelming number of Iranians used their vote to reject extremism, protest Khamenei's regressive clerical military dictatorship, and express a deep desire for change.

Just as we respect the voices of the courageous activists who believe the regime is incapable of change, we honour and respect the voices who believe that this election can be a step towards fundamental, democratic change in Iran. I congratulate them.

The need for change is urgent, and Canada will help to hold the regime accountable for the hopes that the people of Iran have invested in Hassan Rouhani. The worst outcome for the people of Iran would be for the world to cease its calls for human rights and fundamental freedoms in that country.

The world will be watching for concrete actions the release of political prisoners, the lifting of controls on freedom of information and communication, an end to the persecution of activists, journalists and dissidents. I challenge the Iranian regime to have the courage to face the real aspirations of the Iranian people, and open up.

I challenge Khamenei to consider the possibility of real change. And I challenge Hassan Rouhani to prove, with concrete actions, that he is not the man who sent the Basij militia into the residences of the University of Tehran to crush another moment of hope in 1999.

The Iranian regime must also, urgently, adopt a new course in its dealings with the international community, and I sincerely hope that Khamenei does intend to signal a strategic shift by allowing the election of Hassan Rouhani. If he does, this intention needs to be demonstrated quickly with concrete and genuine actions, in talks with the P5+1 and in cooperation with the IAEA and also the reckless expansion of Iran's nuclear program.

If Khamenei does indeed support moderation, then the world needs to see proof that the Qods Force and Hezbollah are no longer plotting acts of terror against innocent civilians.

Canada is proud to support initiatives that help to make your voices heard, whatever your point of view. I promise that we will listen, and the Government of Canada will take action based on what we hear from you. As one small example, we heard from you, the people of Iran, that the regimes greatest vulnerability is information.

In response, we have lifted Canadian sanctions on technologies that make it easier to communicate and access the free internet.

I would like to take this conversation with the people of Iran a step further, and make the Government of Canada a stronger voice for the change that you desire. A great number of you have already joined in the University of Toronto’s Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran, and used it to connect, share and participate in a free debate on the future of your country.

I invite every Iranian to visit the Global Dialogue website (www.theglobaldialogue.ca), engage in the growing community, and answer the following question on Google Moderator: What is the one thing that Canada can do in support of the change that Iranians demanded on 14th June?

I will be listening and I will take the answers you give to the international community. I commit to you that we will hold the regime accountable for your hopes, and that your aspirations for the future of your country will guide the work that Canada does in support of democracy in Iran.