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PoliticsIran Wants Closer Ties With Canada

Iran Wants Closer Ties With Canada

Iran Wants Closer Ties With Canada

Situated in Rockcliffe, the Iranian Ambassador's residence is traditionally designed with ceramics, glass and intricate patterns, using elements of diverse architectural styles (Parsi, Razi, Khorasani, Azari and Isfahani). The residence is a fusion of two very separate cultures, designed by Canadian architect Barry J. Hobin and Persian architect Aliakbar B. Nasrabadi. Much like this architectural collaboration, Dr. Mohammed-Ali Mousavi hopes his work in the diplomatic community will help build an atmosphere of harmony and understanding between Canada and Iran.

A career diplomat, Mousavi holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Durham in England, and has held many high-ranking positions in Iran's Foreign Ministry. He's written numerous articles on the state of his nation's economy and political affairs, and is the author of Political Economy of Oil and State in Iran. But can he meld frictions between Canada and his country of birth?

Mousavi's work is clearly cut out for him. Many in Canada are still reluctant to trust Iran, though it has been months since the Zahra Kazemi case rocked relations between the two nations. A reaction of shock and outrage overwhelmed Iranian-Canadians particularly when news broke of the photojournalist's brutal murder at the hands of Iranian officials. For many Canadians, feelings of uncertainty towards Iran's commitment to justice persist.

Yet, Mousavi remains hopeful that Canada and Iran will overcome this roadblock. "The Kazemi case upset Iranians, as well as Canadians," says Mousavi. "Our government's response will be an important deciding factor on the future relations between our two countries."

Dr. Mousavi believes the Kazemi case was an isolated incident that doesn't adequately reflect the state of affairs in Iran. While he expressed his sorrow for Mrs. Kazemi and her family, and went as far as offering her son travel assistance to visit Iran, Mousavi was also very concerned that the case might cause a backlash against his homeland.

Worried that the incident had generated misconceptions about Iran, Mousavi stated that: "Mrs. Kazemi took photos of a prison in Tehran. She broke the law. No one can take the law into their own hands.”

But Canadians have had trouble seeing things that way. As a result, Canada threatened to impose sanctions against Iran and withdrew its ambassador for a brief period.

While Canada and Iran continue to hold contradictory views of the Kazemi case, the nations have managed to agree on a major issue in international affairs. Iran, like Canada, did not support the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

As Mousavi explains, Iran was the first victim of Saddam Hussein's cruelty but despite this, he could not condone the war. "The U.S. government could have dealt with the issue in other ways," says Mousavi. "The war has only caused destabilization that may trouble the region for years to come."

Mousavi also maintained that Canada's allegiance to the United Nations could help bring peace to many hot spots around the world. He believes that Canada's commitment to the UN will help legitimize the much-maligned organization, and although he admits that Iran itself has not always supported UN positions, he says, "Overall, the UN is an organization that always tries to help countries maintain serenity."

The wife of Ambassador Mousavi also has thoughts on improving relations between Canada and Iran. For her, an important part of this cause is fostering understanding and awareness among nations.

Dr. Heshmat-o-Sadat, who holds a PhD in Sociology from Manchester University in England, works tirelessly to eradicate misconceptions about Muslims and to bring Canadians a candid view of Iranian women. With an essay submitted to Canada's Parliament entitled Women in Islam, she offers a poignant illustration of life for the many educated Islamic women of her homeland. Also a frequent participant at conferences and events that help to inform Canadians about the Muslim community, Dr. Heshmat-o-Sadat is a true ambassador for this worthy cause.

She's also an active contributor to the Ottawa community as a member of HOMESAW, an organization that supports local charities. She feels that her volunteer work is just one way of showing her admiration for the country. "I like Canada. Canadian people are very hospitable."

Ambassador Mousavi and his wife know the odds might be against them, but they continue their work with the hope that these efforts can somehow bring understanding and harmony between two very distinct nations.

By: Sakina Khawaja & Amitha Carnadin

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