Ottawa condemns death of Mahsa Amini and state crackdown on protests in Iran

·3 min read
A newspaper with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic's
A newspaper with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic's

Canada's foreign affairs minister is condemning the death of Mahsa Amini in Iranian police custody and the ensuing state crackdown on civilian protests.

"Her death was a direct result of the systemic and continued harassment and repression of women by Iran," Melanie Joly said in a media statement released Friday.

The 22-year-old Amini died last week following her arrest by Iran's morality police for "unsuitable attire" after she allegedly wore a hijab improperly. Her death unleashed a nationwide flood of protests over human rights, security and an economy reeling from international sanctions.

WATCH | Protesters in Iran take to the streets

Women have played a prominent role in the demonstrations. Some have been publicly burning their veils and cutting their hair in a direct challenge to clerical leaders.

Protesters across Iran continued to clash violently with security forces early Friday. Iranian state TV suggested the death toll from the unrest could be as high as 26, without offering details.

"We call on Iran to stop escalating tensions and to refrain from committing further acts of violence against its own population," Joly's statement said. "We urge Iran to meaningfully address the grievances of all of its citizens without discrimination and to protect their right to peaceful protest."

West Asia News Agency/Reuters
West Asia News Agency/Reuters

Earlier this week, Joly said Ottawa was following the protests closely and called for "a full and complete investigation into the regime's actions" in relation to Amini's death.

Other Western governments, such as the U.S. and France, condemned Amini's death earlier this week.

"Mahsa Amini should be alive today," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday. "We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest."

Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman critiqued Joly's statement, saying Canada's response to Iran "requires more than words."

"Canada should see the countless cases of brutality against the women of Iran and the violent crackdown on basic human rights and freedoms as a call to finally list [Iran's Revolutionary Guard] as a terrorist organization," Lantsman said in a media statement.

On Thursday, Iranian authorities warned that protests over Amini's death would have consequences. The Revolutionary Guard called on the judiciary to prosecute "those who spread false news and rumours" in an apparent bid to quash the demonstrations.

WATCH | Human rights lawyer on calls for investigation:

On Tuesday, a top United Nations official demanded an independent investigation of Amini's death.

"Mahsa Amini's tragic death and allegations of torture and ill treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent, competent authority," said Nada al-Nashif, the acting UN high commissioner for human rights.

NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said the government needs to support the UN's call for an investigation and support Iranians seeking asylum in Canada.

"Gender-based violence continues to be a reality for many women and girls and the NDP is committed to pushing the government to provide concrete support women's rights in Iran," McPherson said in a media statement.