By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The Iranian government may arrange a Tehran trip for First Nations leaders to address that country’s parliament, according to a senior diplomat with the Iranian embassy in Ottawa.
Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, charge d’affaires for the Iranian embassy, said the request made by former Roseau River First Nation chief Terry Nelson and two Dakota chiefs to meet the Iranian parliament had been sent up Tehran’s chain of command.
“They have…requested to travel to Iran and to speak at the Iranian parliament,” said Sheikh-Hassai, in a statement sent to APTN National News. “Their wish has been sent to the relevant officials for consideration.”
Sheikh-Hassani said Iran emphasized its respect for “the sovereignty of Canada” during Monday’s meeting with Nelson, Canupawakpa Dakota Nation Chief Frank Brown, Dakota Plains Wahpeton First Nation Chief Orville Smoke and former Sioux Valley First Nation chief Ken Whitecloud.
“In accordance with our constitution and principles of foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the door of our embassy is open to all Canadians,” said Sheikh-Hassani’s statement. “We believe that all countries should respect their international obligations and responsibilities through cooperation with their Indigenous communities to find a just and sustainable resolution.”
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s office issued a statement earlier condemning Iran for using the First Nations leaders as “pawns” to distract from its own “abhorrent record” on human rights.
Baird’s spokesman Joseph Lavoie said in an emailed statement that Iran was exploiting “tragedy” and playing a “sad game” with the First Nations leaders.
“The Iranian regime is now attempting to exploit tragedy and feign concern as yet another PR stunt to distract from its own abhorrent record,” wrote Lavoie. “We hope the Aboriginal leaders in question won’t allow themselves to be used as pawns in this sad game the Iranians are playing.”
Iran has repeatedly called out Canada over the treatment of First Nations people on the international stage over the years.
In the mid-1920s, Iran, then known as Persia, supported a request by Haudenosaunee hereditary Chief Deskaheh to have the League of Nations consider a Six Nations Confederacy for formal membership as a state. The attempt eventually failed, and the federal government dissolved the Six Nations Confederacy Council and imposed an Indian Act government.
Iran, however, has a history of repressing its own Indigenous population.
The Iranian Kurds, which occupy the northwestern region of Iran, have faced repression from both the Iranian government under the Shah and the Islamic Republic that emerged after the Shah was overthrown.
Iranian Kurds, who have tried to establish a degree of autonomy in Iran, faced not only violent repression and the assassination of its political leaders, but also systemic discrimination in everything from employment to political participation, according to Amnesty International.
Kurdish regions are economically neglected, Kurds have “restricted access to adequate housing,” and Iran bans parents from registering their children with select Kurdish names, according to the human rights group.