As the one-year anniversary of the tragedy of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 arrived, still, there is no justice. However, even before the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps fired the rocket that downed the aircraft—killing 176 people, more than 80 of them Canadian residents—there was already much to mourn. The slaughter of innocents in Iran, by the IRGC, has a long history, dating back to the organization’s inception in 1979.
At the outset of the revolution, the IRGC executed two prominent civilians: Dr. Farrokhru Parsa, Iran’s first female cabinet minister; and Habib Elghanian, a leader in the Iranian Jewish community. That same year, the IRGC stormed the American Embassy, holding the diplomats within hostage and beginning a stand-off that would last 444 days. The effects of 1979 continue to be felt today, all around the globe, 41 years later.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the list of crimes committed by the IRGC grew longer by one atrocity after the next. They used Iranian children as minesweepers, sending them to pointless deaths in a pointless war with neighbouring Iraq, a war started by the IRGC in a nonsensical attempt to spread its ideological “revolution” to the rest of the world. Over the next ten years, the IRGC went on an international killing spree, both at home in Iran and abroad in Europe and the United States, assassinating an estimated 80 opposition leaders. The IRGC attacked U.S. Marines in Lebanon, killing 241 servicemen. In less than sixty days during the bloody summer of 1988, under the direct orders of the Ayatollah Khomeini, 5000 political prisoners were executed. A Jewish centre in Buenos Aires was bombed in 1994, killing 85 people and injuring 300 more. In 1996, the IRGC targeted the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which housed coalition forces monitoring local no-fly zones. The car-bombing killed 19 Americans and wounded 500 others from all around the world. The IRGC has suppressed student uprisings in Iran by terrorizing universities, going so far as to kill students in their dorms. They have murdered people in the streets in order to quell non-violent public demonstrations. They have rigged Iranian presidential elections.
However, not all of the crimes of the IRGC are buried so deeply in the decades past. Just over a year ago, in early November 2019, protests swept across more than a hundred towns and cities in Iran, after the government made a surprise announcement that tripled the price of gas overnight. But the protests quickly turned from demonstrations of economic unrest to demands for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran itself. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets of major Iranian cities, shouting “death to the dictator” and torching billboards of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In response to these protests, the regime cut off Internet services—creating a communication blackout—and massacred an estimated 1500 people, detaining at least 7000 more.
Still, at the end of 2019, the Iranian people felt emboldened that the whole world was watching. They were openly calling for the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They evidenced large-scale disaffection within the Iranian population, a desire for real political change.
Then on January 8, 2020, just days after the death of IRGC Quds Force leader Ghassem Soleimani, the IRGC shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, as it took off from Tehran, destined for Kiev. After spending three days vehemently denying any involvement in the incident, the IRGC finally claimed responsibility, alleging that an individual had mistaken the commercial flight for a threat and fired a rocket. Even this was a lie. There is supporting evidence that the downing of the airliner was deliberate, having been planned by the regime the night before. The reckless indifference to human life graphically illustrated over the skies of Tehran that day was not, in fact, a one-off. The horrifying event is just one more atrocity to add to the list of crimes that has been growing since 1979.
Protestors in Iran, still feeling the eyes of the world upon them, once again called for Supreme Leader Khamenei’s removal from office, for his resignation. Indeed, at great risk to their own lives, they called for his arrest, trial and conviction. While the regime forced them to publicly mourn one of their great oppressors, the mass-murderer Soleimani, people risked being shot for cutting down his picture in the streets of major cities across Iran.
Yet as of today, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran still functions as a legitimate organization on the world stage. Which is why, here in Canada, it is still time to declare the IRGC a terrorist organization. The regime surrounding the Ayatollah has changed little in the past quarter-century, and the nations of the West still deal with Iran with sanctions and half-measures. The IRGC funnels money and weapons to Hezbollah, the Taliban, and other terrorist organizations with impunity. Yet Canada, and other nations, are reluctant to declare the IRGC a terrorist entity. On December 17, 2012, the Canadian Government put Soleimani’s Quds Force on the terror group watch list. In 2018, the Canadian Parliament passed a measure to place the IRGC on the terror group watch list as well. The Canadian people are still waiting for the government to act on this measure. As of December 28, 2020, the IRGC, which oversees the Quds Force and has a controlling stake in the Iranian economy, is still free to operate within and deal with Canada, using money gained from transactions with Canadian companies in order to oppress Iranians around the globe. Canada, by entertaining the pretense that the IRGC is not involved with international terrorism, aids and abets acts of terror perpetrated by the IRGC against Iranians and all people.
The government of Canada must cease to be complicit in the atrocities committed by the IRGC. The grief this country feels in the wake of the attack on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 must be memorialized with action.
It is still time for Canada to stop allowing the IRGC to conduct its terror campaigns against its own citizens and to export that terror abroad. This is an issue that supercedes politics and party lines.
While many western nations have pushed for change by deepening their diplomatic ties to Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran has continued to be uncooperative. Canada has been requesting the remains of Canadian-Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi since 2003, when she was arrested, raped and killed by Iranian officials. The Iranian dictatorship has murdered thousands of Syrians, and Soleimani himself, as head of the Quds Force, was a lead player in directing the IRI’s forces to support the blood-soaked reign of the Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad. There is folly in turning a blind eye to what is happening. Targeting the IRGC is the fastest way to protect Iranians, sending a clear message that Canada does not condone terror, nor does it cower in the face of terror-states.
Non-state terror organizations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda are easy to denounce. They claim credit for their actions, open in their hatred of western culture. The Islamic Republic of Iran has employed its duplicitous strategy for 41 years now, maintaining access to trade and a seat at the international table by denying its own actions and working through proxy organizations.
Canada can no longer abide by this charade.
It is still—and has been for nearly half a century—time for Canada to add the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Until then, we are complicit in their murderous activities.