Thursday, July 14, 2005

Only Hope

I arrived at Hart House just before 6 p.m. and I picked up the keys for the debate room. There were four large fans set up in the room since the old building is not equipped with air conditioning. The technician came and we set up the audio and video system in the hall. Then he asked me whether I was too an audio technician!

Some people arrived before 7 but mostly after 7 pm. By 7:20 we had at least 150 people in the hall. I was anxiously waiting for David Cozac (Program Coordinator of Pen Canada), Brad McDonald (Exec. Director of CJFE), and representatives from Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders. To my astonishment, David Cozac was very young and extremely well-spoken and I didn’t forget to ask for his business card!

Tuesday was the hottest day of the summer so far. We had to get the guest speakers some cold water. Beads of sweat would occasionally drip down my chin as I was speaking on the podium. I was very surprised to see no one left the hall before the speeches were over, due to the heat. Everything went well, even better than I had expected.

Two years ago, when the idea of a memorial first crossed my mind, I couldn’t be any more nervous, looking down on the crowd from the podium. This year, we did it all within 7 days and I was confident, content and grateful as I was introducing the speakers.

Here are some excerpts of what was said:

“Denial of medical care amounts to cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, forbidden under Iranian law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party. The Iranian authorities are responsible for the health and safety of Ganji. Human Rights Watch, together with other international human rights organizations, stand with you tonight and call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ganji and all prisoners held for their political beliefs.” Human Rights Watch

“This tragedy also shows how little power the Canadian government has to help its own citizens in these kinds of cases. Having a dual Iranian-Canadian citizenship while in Iran doesn't really mean very much in the grand scheme of things. Canadian diplomats have repeatedly attempted to get more information from Iranian authorities or to be present in the so-called "trials" or appeals of those who may have been involved with Zahra's death, only to be completely shut out.” Reporters without Borders

“It is hoped that continued pressure on Iranian authorities to have Ganji released could yield positive results. It is hoped that continued pressure from the International community can prevent the deaths of future Zahra Kazemis and soon enough we can witness the rebirth of democracy, freedom and political justice in Iran. Thank you everyone and have a good evening.” The MC


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