A recent immigrant from Iran says he feels powerless as he watches his home country go through extreme turmoil.
In September, a young girl was arrested for not properly wearing her Hijab, then died in police custody. This triggered countless protests and many civilians died as police and military cracked down.
"The protestors at first started against the Hijab and after the protests grew, it grew in all of the country and it grew from the Hijab to all of the government and system changing in Iran," says Bijan Babaie.
Babaie, his wife Mozhgan Shaygan and his son moved to Steinbach from Iran approximately two years ago. He loves his home country dearly but says they chose to move to Canada to give their son a better future.
Babaie says communication with their family back in Iran this fall has been tough.
“Some applications like WhatsApp are completely shut down in Iran and we can only talk by phone and it is very expensive to have communication over the phone lines. We can send some messages and they send back that 'we are alive, we are safe, don't worry', only that. That is enough for us, to know that they are safe.”
Even in these messages, Babaie says they have to be very careful because they do not want to say anything that will endanger their loved ones.
Babaie urges Canadian officials to put even more pressure on the Iranian government to relent and make positive change.
“I believe the government of Manitoba [and Canada] can be the voice of Iranians more than they are now. They can be the voice of Iranians, we love our country, we love our people and Iran can be very peaceful but we need other countries hearing their voice.”
His message to residents of the Southeast is similar. He notes “In the media, nothing is said about the good things of Iran, but the Iranian people are very lovely, very friendly, and a very peaceful people. Iranian people don't want war, Iranian people love peace, love other people, love the world.”
In fact, Babaie says two of the earliest human rights advocates in history are from ancient Iran. He notes the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has a whole exhibit about them.
Babaie says he feels he cannot do much to help from a distance but has hope for Iran.