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Apr-06-2010 14:42printcomments

So, We are Terrorists!

Tensions between Iran and Canada lead to mistreatment and humiliation, and the unreasonable and questionable rejections of visa applications.

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(TEHRAN) - Once Dr. Hossein Beik-baghban, a renowned Iranian professor of Oriental Studies at the University of Strasbourg, while addressing a gathering in our university, digressed to explain a bitterly interesting memory from his first years as an Iranian scholar in France:

"I was standing in a queue in a large shopping mall in Alsace, waiting for my turn to hand the goods over to the salesman and get the receipt, when a rustic old German woman appeared before and started talking to me immediately. We talked for some 10 minutes on different topics, and eventually, it came to nationality.

I asked her first and she replied that she is German. Correspondingly, she began guessing about me. Before I told her myself that all of her guesses, one after another, were wrong: Lebanese, Turkish, Azeri, Arab and Russian. I told her that I'm Iranian.

She remained silent and somewhat in shock for a few seconds, and suddenly yelled with excitement: Oh! So, you are a terrorist!"

For me, as the member of a developing society, and the citizen of a part of the so-called "Axis of Evil", it would be more than probably a delightful experience to travel to the proximity of the "Beacon of Freedom", and witness what I may never envision or even think of.

When I first received the acceptance letter, telling me that my paper had been selected to be presented in an international conference in Calgary, Canada, I instantaneously began to imagine myself in a British Airways flight from Tehran to London, and to Calgary thereafter, wearing a navy-blue suit, addressing a large public of young people and students from all around the world, sharing a series of informative data and figures on energy crises and global warming and so on; however, I could never imagine that such a dream would be in vain within less than 3 weeks.

When I first submitted my forms for the visa application and the relevant travel documentations to the Canadian Embassy in Tehran, I never on earth was aware of the fact that "over 61 percent of Iranian applicants' visa applications had been rejected by the Canadian Embassy in 2007 and 2008," according to Vincent Valai, the member of the Quebec Law Society.

The standoff between Tehran and Ottawa started in mid-2003 on the grounds of the suspicious death of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer and freelance journalist who was allegedly "murdered" while she was in the custody of Iranian officials in the Evin Prison of Tehran.

In late 2007 and following the escalation of mutual tensions over the frequent complaints of Ottawa against the "negative human rights record" of Iran, Tehran ordered the Canadian Ambassador John Mundy to leave the country and expelled him to degrade the representation of Canada in Iran to the level of Charge d'Affaires.

Canada's then Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier described the act as "retaliatory and entirely unjustifiable" while casting doubts and concerns and expressing that "we stand behind our ambassador, who has performed his diplomatic duties with professionalism and dedication."

Mutually, under the pretext of the possibility of having links with the radical students of the 1970s who subsequently engaged in the U.S. embassy hostage-taking in 1980 in Tehran, Canada refused to accept several candidates who were proposed by Iran for ambassadorship in Ottawa and now, it's the third year that the bilateral presence of the two countries is limited to the level of Charge d'Affaires.

Poor, terrorist Iranians

Following the emergence of new tensions between Iran and Canada and after Michel de Salaberry, the former Canadian Ambassador to Egypt and Jordan, took office as the Charge d'Affaires, confusion and haphazardness culminated to its pinnacle in the Canadian Embassy in Tehran.

According to the Canadian Department of Citizenship and Immigration, 32 percent of Iranians' applications in 2006 were rejected by the Embassy, while it aggravated to 51 percent in 2007 and hit the record in 2008 of 61 percent.

Netherlands-based Persian-language Radio Zamaneh reported in February 2009 that "200 Iranians apply for temporary residence visas at the Canadian Embassy daily, and the Embassy receives 60 dollars per each applicant regularly. Altogether, the total income of the Embassy exceeds $360,000 per month and amounts to $4,320,000 annually and this accounts for approximately 12% of Canada's yearly imports from Iran!"

Nevertheless, this is not the whole story. Aside from the unreasonable and questionable rejections of visa applications, the mechanism of the Embassy's interaction with applicants is thoroughly unfair and discriminatory. Daily Star reported in May 2009 that "leading dissidents from Iran were insulted and humiliated by visa officers at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran before two were barred entry to Canada for a conference at York University."

Mistreatment and humiliation have long become a routine practice of the Embassy staff who don't even permit the applicants to enter the Embassy and speak to the high-ranking officials. It has not been precisely identified what objectives the Canadian Embassy pursues by taking such approaches; however, there are some allegations and suspicions which would require an elaborate investigation.

In a brief and unbelievable conversation with a middle-age woman who was seeking a temporary visa to meet her sons in Quebec, I figured out that she had paid an extra $200 to the embassy staff and they facilitated the issuance of her visa under 5 days; something which is almost unprecedented and impossible in most cases.

Clearly, the Embassy now considers the procedure of visa issuance a lucrative source of business for itself, though the deterioration of bilateral ties has contributed to the inequitable hostility against Iranian applicants.

After 18 days of submitting my materials to the Embassy, they handed me a piece of paper, explaining that my visa will be issued "possibly" on June 9, and the conference which I was going to attend was slated for June 7. I'll be deprived of attending the conference for which I dedicated 2 months of research, more than probably because "I'm a terrorist".

================================================= The latest writer to join's team; Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian media correspondent, freelance journalist and the author of Book 7+1. He is a contributing writer for websites and magazines in the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, South Korea, Belgium, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. He was once a member of Stony Brook University Publications’ editorial team and Media Left magazine’s contributing writer, as well as a contributing writer for Finland’s Award-winning Ovi Magazine. As a young Iranian journalist, he has been interviewed and quoted by several mainstream mediums, including BBC World Service, PBS Media Shift, the Media Line network, Deutsch Financial Times and L.A. Times. Currently, he works for the Foreign Policy Journal as a media correspondent. He is a member of Tlaxcala Translators Network for Linguistic Diversity and World Student Community for Sustainable Development. You can write to Kourosh Ziabari at:

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bab March 16, 2011 12:20 pm (Pacific time)

Canadian embassy is definately turning its political machine into a money making business. They give every Iranian applying for visa a number of rejections and everytime they chrge them 73000 tomans. Canadian government has deliberately decided to humiliate Iranians and they are performign one of clear case of ethnocentrism and racism. I hope you can take our cry to some international organization to ask Canadian Embassy to stop their hypocrite policies.

Vic April 6, 2010 9:40 pm (Pacific time)

I saw an awful terrorist attack video today...terrorists in an Apache gunship murdering civilians and reporters. The whole world knows who the WMD armed terrorists are. They are the same ones who used nuclear weapons on cities, killed over 95,000 Japanese in three days with the firebomb raids of 1945, incinerated Dresden and then strafed the survivors, bombed weddings and funerals and have killed over 900 civilians in 2009 alone with drone attacks..the ultimate COWARDS weapon. (Somehow we are to believe that an Arab who plants a bomb to fight off invaders is a coward, but a 22 year old at Creech AFB in Nevada jacked up on Red Bull and wiping out weddings on the other side of the world with his joystick and his drone is not only not cowardly. but honorable.) They are the same ones itching to get another war going so that they can try out the new toys they have bankrupted America buying. Terror is as terror does. We are #1 folks.

Natalie April 6, 2010 8:55 pm (Pacific time)

I agree with gp on this one. Many embassies have this simple business. $60 is actually cheap compared to $130+very expensive phone minutes to speak to a clerk+the charge for telling why the application was denied. Paying extra for fast service doesn't mean one will be approved, even if it's the parent's funeral. The unwritten rule is: the more countries you visited-the more chances for getting a new visa. And be prepared to sing, dance, or draw a portrait, or whatever you do professionaly, in order to prove that you are who you claim to be. Nothing new in this area. It's like going to the DMV. Nobody likes it, but there's no way around.

gp April 6, 2010 3:20 pm (Pacific time)

We were denied visas to Spain where my husband anticipated doing research for a year. I believe many embassies may be shaking people down this way. The cost of applications besides financial, is very time consuming with many double or triplicate documents (ours were 2" high for three people), the trips to the embassies are lengthy in many cases, the photographs and insurance proof add to the burden. We figure it cost us $700 to travel from Portland to San Francisco in order to waste our day waiting and being sent out for more documents, to be treated rudely by a 25 year old beauty queen only to be turned down without ever being able to present our case to anyone beyond the level of a clerk. I don't mean to hint that the terrorist accusation is not horrid, only that many low echelon clerks have a great deal of power to disallow visas. Of course reapplication is possible but probably just as futile.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.


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