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November 14, 2003

Two-Tier Citizenship
Shahriar Zayyani  [info|posts]

double.jpg The death of Zahra Kazemi, unfortunate and unjust as it was, shed much light on issues that previously were in the dark, and raised many more issues which until then had not been considered matters needing to be dealt with.

Besides the fact that her death was unjust, and the reality that it brought to the international forefront about the corruption in the Islamic Republic and the internal strife within the government of Iran, it also showed us a bit about the character of the Canadian government.

Yes, the Canadian government did recall their ambassador to Tehran, and they did ask for justice on the international front, but their follow-through of the events showed (at least in my eyes) that most of their reaction are for show and superficial. The reasons are surely many and varied. Perhaps the economic and trade ties between Iran and Canada were too important to risk, perhaps they were worried about retaliatory terrorism if they pressed the matter, or maybe they just didn't deem the issue important enough to take a much more active pursuit in.

Whatever the reasons, the Canadina government's actions (or the lack thereof) regarding this matter send a message to all Canadian citizens, since I conjecture that if instead of Zahra Kazemi, the victim had been a woman of Anglo-Canadian descent, whose family had been Canadian residents for many generations, and the colour of her hair and skin had been of a different shade, and she had had an English name, there would have been no way that the Canadian government would have acted so apathetically and with such aloofness.

The message is: that the Canadian citizenship is perhaps a two-tier system; that despite what we've been told, not all citizens are equal in the eyes of the government of Canada; that perhaps if you are born in a different country, such as Iran, and you choose to emigrate to Canada and become a Canadian citizen, you will not stand on equal footing with a fellow citizen who was born and raised here, who is of a different descent; that you are a second-level citizen.

There is no problem with this scenario in itself, if they let you know of it when you become a citizen, when you take an oath to Canada and Canada takes an oath to you. If I know that I am not on the same level as another fellow Canadian citizen, and that Canada will not look after me with the same vigilance as her other citizens, then I will behave differently and look after myself more carefully, both here and abroad.

Perhaps if Zahra Kazemi had known this, she would have been alive today. But, let us hope that this is not the case.

WhoMan at November 14, 2003 04:15 PM [permalink]:

I don't know if you live in Canada or not or ever heard of the name Bill Sampson. He is a fellow Canadian who was improsoned in Saudi Arabia for two years, got tortured, and sentenced to death based on "confessions" he made after tortures.
If you ask him, (again if you follow the news that he might sue the federal government for the lack of action) he gives you a different side of the story. He would say you that his English sounding name and all other facial things you mentioned didn't help him in his case!

I don't think what you described is fair. The fact is that the fedral governments' hands are tied in Kazemi's case. She travelled to Iran on an Iranian passport. No country ... I repeat ... no country can have much saying when its citizen travels on a different passport. What Canadian government did was pretty much a government could do.You think it wasn't still enough? But it was certainly much better than other western countries have done. Am I satisfied with their approach? I don't know all the legal issues around dual citizens.For this, and other matters, many countries in the world don't respect dual citizenship.

Speaking of economical benefits, I have to remind you of the fedral government's stance when it came to Canadian of certain middle eastern descent (including Iranians) who travel to the US. Canada stood firm even though it created some rifts with the States potentially endangering much more economic trade.

SG at November 14, 2003 05:45 PM [permalink]:

two first paragraphs are repeated. correctify it!

Nasser at November 14, 2003 06:17 PM [permalink]:

Dear my friends,
Let me look at this case from the legal point of view since this is my field of study. The branch of the law which deals with this matter is called International Private Law. In international private law the double citizenship is not acceptable. Although practically, there are millions of people who benefit from the double citizenship, however, they have still one citizenship in the eyes of the home country. Hence, when Mrs, Zahra Kazemi travelled Iran, she is still an Iranian. Therefore, nobody can come and ask Iran what you have done to her, or why you have imprisoned her according to the sovereignty principle in public International Law. To sum up, it is now clear that according to respective principles in private international law, and public International law, the act of the Canadian government is not legally acceptable, and it is interfere in the sovereignty of a country.
I never deny the hideous and outrageous behaviour of the Iranian governments, yet the point which I am going to say is that Canadian government could not do anything more than what they have done. My note is a mere legal analyse of this case due to this fact that I have studied International law in one of this western country, Australia.

Shabnam at November 14, 2003 08:31 PM [permalink]:

I agree with the other comments on this issue. I know when I got my Canadian citizenship they told me that is I travel with my Iranian passport to Iran, Canadian government cannot support me at all. They even said that if I travel with Iranian passport anywhere else, it is very probable that Canadian government cannot support me. So I think people who have the Canadian passport are aware of that, since there are tens of pamphlets in the passport office which informs people with dual citizenship of their rights and government's limitations.

V.H. at November 16, 2003 02:37 AM [permalink]:

Smart choice of picture!!!. Did you do that just because of the red emblem in center of our flag?!

Somayeh Sadat at November 16, 2003 11:33 AM [permalink]:

Well, I don't know the legal, political, and economical issues surrounding Ms. Kazemi's death and government actions. I just want to mention that treating dual citizens differently is not limited to when they are outside the country.

My aunt is an Iranian American citizen. She traveled for some medical treatment to US two days ago. As far as I know, this was an emergency travel, and she shouldn't have a large luggage. And of course, she was entering US with her US passport. The customs agency, however, did a thorough inspection of her luggage, and the only thing she had was some nuts (Ajil), which apparently made some trouble. She thinks that the only reason this happened was that she was born in Iran. (Her appearance is just like a western citizen, nothing special. ) No way to prove it, but I feel she is right. Mistreating dual citizens not only happens outside the borders the countries, but also inside them, by officials who can misuse their power to put more pressure on dual citizens.

anon at November 16, 2003 01:53 PM [permalink]:

but isnt the point that, dual citizenship, is NOT supposed to be different. i think the point here is that when one gets citizenship from say canada or US, there is not supposed to be a difference with someone who is born there. rite? and regarding teh case of sampson or even Arar, these people survived and they are personally the ones who pursuing the issue. but the kazemi issue is not even on the radar anymore.

AliS in Wonderland at November 16, 2003 03:08 PM [permalink]:

I thought maybe those interested can find the following text useful:

"International Law Cases and Materials", 4th Ed., by Damrosch, Henkin, Pugh, Schachter and Smit, at p.425

has a section on 'Nationality under International Law' which could be useful.

Iran4dummies at November 16, 2003 10:41 PM [permalink]:

Well, I guess this is a real tragedy, what I do not like about is nation-oriented task, I mean we have to look at it as a human being passed away by Islamic Justice,, not only a navy blue passport and red flag dilemma. We have to admit even we ourselves do not put any value for Iranian people, look at many other journalists who are in jails, being tortured, killed, and no one even know their names. Beyond this Tragedy, there is a nationalism issue which would not let us consider the victims as human beings. Orientalists in North now take as a grant. Let it be?

Panther at November 16, 2003 11:53 PM [permalink]:


There is a very important point hidden in your article. It shows how "passive and expecting" Iranians are. I will try to do my best to summerize it in the shortest post possible.

When Zahra Kazemi died, how many Iranian-Canadians protested in Canada? how many of them gathered to sign a petition, talk to their senators/governors and put political pressure on the Canadian government? NONE! Absolutely None. I have come to this conclusion that most Iranian-Canadians and before them, most Iranian-Americans, are among the most passive community of Immigrants in North America. They are just happy that they have good-enough jobs and a decent life/education. They do nothing, and expect a lot in return.

Now look at Non-Iranians, i.e. native Canadians, Americans, and Europeans. They are the exact opposite. In comparison, they organize meetings, demonstrations, protests, strikes UNTIL THEY GET what they want from their government, whether it be increase in wages in the rail industry, hunting polar foxes, abortion rights, lesbian marriage or following of a murder case abroad. Even American blacks, during the 50's and 60's fought and fough and fough for their rights until they finally got what they wanted.

Make no mistake. It's not the Canadian government who cares more about white people with blue eyes, it's the white people themselves who care more about themselves and do whatever they can to achieve their rights. Also, it's the lazyness, bad organization, and political illiteracy of Iranian-Canadians which puts them into such deep troubles or weak conditions.

Why should a representative government, or a member of the parliament, do something when non of his/her constituents shows any interest in the case? The pressure people put on a specific issue, shows the priority of that issue from their point of view, and attracts the attention of the government. Otherwise the government has a lot of business to take care of, and of course they will stick to those with higher priority.

A bus driver - by duty - has to stop in every bus stop. But when no one pressed the stop button, he would conclude that no one is going to get off in the next stop, so he wouldn't stop (to save time, energy, ...). Don't just expect, do something. In a democratic system, never under-estimate the power of people, groups, NGOs, etc. It seems to me that people inside Iran show more interest in resolving Zahra Kazemi's case, that Iranians inside Canada.

As Iranian immigrants in Canada and the States, you should read some history, open your eyes, observe how the system works in those countries. Learn how those "white and black" people achieved their rights throughout their history. After all, unlike Iran, in Canada, you will not go to jail for putting pressure on the government. Don't just complain, DO something.

The Bass Voice at November 17, 2003 03:35 AM [permalink]:

I can't agree more with Panther. Action is what is missing, complaints are abound.

A Reader at November 17, 2003 10:04 AM [permalink]:

Dear Panther,

Your first pargaraph seemed to be very true to me at the first glance but when I deeply thought I found although you might be right but the fact of the matter is the government you are talking about is not dedicated for Iranians or other people as you think. You see, US president congratulates Iranian-Americans in every circumstance to show that he respecets them but he and his gang try to deport even Iranian-Americans who are in the US (remember what happened in LA last year). I agree with you that Iranian who live in North America are not active as they should be and just try to complain and nag instead of doing something (as you pointed out),I think this is a general chractersitics of Iranians who forget about others when they have their own position, reputation, and so on. We all have forgotten who are we and what we are doing.

An Iranian in Canada at November 17, 2003 10:08 AM [permalink]:

We did protest and we did show up in Canadian national TV, CBC. In fact during the week of those events we had a smart media campaign that included peaceful demonstrations, TV interviews and newspaper article tips.

These actions were on a small scale but were none the less present. Political activism in general is a taboo for immigrant societies but there is no doubt that in times like this, these actions are more necessary and actually more difficult to accomplish.

WhoMan at November 17, 2003 10:28 AM [permalink]:


The protests were done. Petitions were signed. What else do you expect? Canada's in a bizare position: one of its citizens has travelled to another country on a different passport. What kind of leverage may Canada have?

Again regarding protests, let me remind you that 2 million people demonstrated in London demanding the British government to butt out of Iraq war. Polls after polls showed the majority of the British were agains the war. Petitions were again signed. Protests were made one after another. The result?

Another point. I don't not only see any poblem with Iranian immigrant not to be assertive about their causes, but also I see it natural. Name me one first generation immigrant gourp who have been vocal? Just one. Expressing opinion in the open always starts from the second generation. Iranians haven't got past the phase yet.

A Reader at November 18, 2003 11:47 AM [permalink]:

Dear Who man,
"Name me one first generation immigrant gourp who have been vocal? Just one." Ba yek gol ke bahar nemishe. Panther's point is this is a general charachteristics of Iranians not to get involved AS MUCH AS IT IS NECESSARY. What you are trying to mention is few dedicated people get invlove and try the best. I don't deny that fact that always there exist very dedicated people such as yourself, but generally speaking, can you say more than for instance 60% of people who can really a doer are active? I guess not. I think this was his point.

Another point is, we are wiping boys and doomed because of our nationality. The reson is obvious: we don't have political influence. We have just learnt how to speak well without having any positive and effective effect.

WhoMan at November 18, 2003 01:21 PM [permalink]:

To the previous commentor (I wish you'd left a name):

1- I didn't get the relationship between my sentence that you quoted and your follow-up one that has flower and spring in it.

2- "this is a general charachteristics of Iranians not to get involved AS MUCH AS IT IS NECESSARY".
And my point was to challenge this. Who says this? Based on what? On iranians who live in Iran? Well, sorry they can't. Based on Iranians who live abroad? Sorry they are still a young immigrant group even in Los Angles. More imporatntly they are first generation immigrants. So clarify where this myth that I hear a lot (not from you) has come from.

3- On the contrary to what you say I can argue otherwise just for the sake of argument. Iranians as nation who have always been silenced don't miss a chance to express their individual (not collective) concerns when they are allowed, more often beyond the point.

You wanna see why. Grab a pen and paper when you go out to a coffeeshop or restaurent with your Iranian friends. Write down the numebr of times you or your friends complain and sometimes "protest" or even try to teach other lessons on their quality of service. Do the same with your other friends. Comapre the results. Believe me, you'd be surprised ;)
Note this was a side-comment.

WhoMan at November 18, 2003 01:33 PM [permalink]:

... I almost forgot. Another factor is Iranian population wherever they are.
Never forget that Iranians even in LA where is supposedly Tehrangeles don't demographically make the top 5 ethnic groups. They are not even in the radar screen of California, population-wise.

A Reader at November 18, 2003 01:47 PM [permalink]:

Dear Whoman,

Thanks for your detailed response. Regarding my first point, even in this forum including me we just talk and talk. Do you know how many of this political Iranian forum exist and more than 90% of them live in N.A.? God knows, more than 1 billion. What have they done so far? Just talk, discussion,.... Remember 2 years ago when senator of California wanted to put the name of Iran in that damn list, what did Iranian do? Just some petitions and some protest. Did anybody on be half of others utter Iranians's impression to that government or not. The answer is definitely no. This is just an example and I am not ganna bring more examples which all don't pop into my mind right now. Your example in the coffe shop
is just a very good example for verifying this. Please judge based on the facts not the things which you YOURSELF believe. Believe it or not, Iranians, including myself, are nor doers. We are not supposed to deny the facts. Do we?

WhoMan at November 18, 2003 02:14 PM [permalink]:

Dear ... I don't know what,

I don't think our argument is going anywhere since its continuation would end up in repeating our last remarks. So I am not gonna come. Instead I limit to critique your arguments to have a cohseive debate, and will go off.

1- You haven't mentioned based on what you put your argument about Iranians on. "Believe it or not, Iranians, including myself, are nor doers". Was it based on you and your observations?
Personal observations don't count sometimes.I brought up my personal observations as side-comment too.

2- "Remember 2 years ago when senator of California wanted to put the name of Iran in that damn list, what did Iranian do?"
Have you read my comment on the British protest?
Have you read my comments on the number of Iranians being young in N. America, being first generation? Have you answered if there was any other 1st-generation immigrant group being vocal?

So what do you expect? I don't understand. You are leading me to believe that you expect Iranians do something that has had no precedence.

3- "We are not supposed to deny the facts. Do we?"
What facts? Since when your personal observations are facts and when it comes to mine, this will be my answer: "Please judge based on the facts not the things which you YOURSELF believe".

A Reader at November 18, 2003 03:42 PM [permalink]:

Dear Whoman,

Again thanks for your note. I don't know you personally and I am not saying that you are active or not. Maybe you are the most active member of the first generation. I am not talking about the few percent who may be active. I am talking about the majority of us Iranians. Let me describe the fact: What you see is really feel it, see it and accept it. When you feel there is NO EFFECTIVE EFFORT has been dine, would you say I feel it? Whenever you see something (at least result of that) you could say "I see it". Have we seen any political progress in every aspect you wanna consider? Have we? Of course not. If yes, perhaps a little bit.
But little bit will not do the job and we need to have more.

WhoMan at November 18, 2003 04:12 PM [permalink]:

Dear no one,
I was supposed to go off. But something has raised my curiosity.Please don't take any offense since I am sincerely curious.I want to have re-cap of what we discussed and see if I am fair.

I argued that expecting too much of Iranians, a new, first generation, immigrant group with its relative small population as opposed to many other immigrant groups is not that fair.

You're saying whatever Iranians may have as an excuse (the reasons I mentioned) it is not enough and more should be done.

Can I ask you a question then? Why don't you start from yourself, stand up for yourself, be more vocal, and post YOUR NAME?

Panther at November 18, 2003 06:18 PM [permalink]:
I need to clarify some points: 1- WhoMan, I agree with you that Canada was in a difficult position regarding Zahra Kazemi's case. But the fact that she had dual nationality does not necessarily mean that people can not setup a movement to follow up her case; for the same reason that many people around the world do not ignore murder of Palestinians, East Timorians, South Africans, Bosnians and so on; for the same reason the takes Green Peace people to the middle of the Pacific to stop the French from undertaking a nuclear test. 2- About the British protests: You seem to be either very pessimistic, or very impatient. The protests (not only in London, but all over the UK) had a lot of results; it did not stop the Brits going to war alongside with the US, but it had a big impact on everything. Resignation of the British defence minister was directly related to the protests. Exactly because of the protests, Tony Blair team's approach to the issue was completely different from Americans. It's out of the scope of this post, but to summerize it, they explicitly or implicitly tried to say that they're going to war only because the Yanks did, and in order to protect their own interests; in other words, not to let the yanks eat up the whole of Iraq (of course there is a lot of economic issues involved as well). And you can see, even though people could not stop Blair from going to war last time, this time they are AGAIN protesting in hundreds of thousands against Bush's visit to London. This is a show of muscles from both sides, if people really want or dislike something, they would ask for or show it. All these efforts will have a big impact on their next elections as well; in other words, parties now exactly know what voters want, and what to do in order to win their votes. 3- What you mentioned about 1st and 2nd generation immigrants may be true statistically, or at least might have been true in the majority of cases (although I prefer to see statistics in this regard). But don't forget that Iranian immigrants are very very different from Polish or Estonians or Mongolians who immigrate to North America in search for more food or a decent job that brings them above the poverty line. At least as far as I have observed, (apart from political assylum seekers) most Iranians have had a decent life-style back at home, and good high-level education. So we're not talking about farmers, nomads, criminals or illiterates, we're talking about a well-educated and high-quality group of immigrants. I'm sure you have read over and over, that Iranians are among the most well-educated and wealthy immigrants in the US. So if statistics of the 19th or early 20th century show that social participation in the US had started from the 2nd generation of immigrants (farmers, poor Irish workers, exiled italians, etc), you would expect much more from Iranians with so many excellent qualities, so many political experiences and bitter memories of non-democratic systems; both before and after the revolution. I'm not looking for the reasons behind this Iranian "ignorance", what I'm trying to say is "we know such a problem exists in our tradition/mentality/community, we are educated, we have access to history and information, we have migrated to a country with so many possitive values, we have all the live examples before us, so let's learn and change the way we are". We may be inexperienced and fail in the beginning, but we must consciously try to learn. 4- Again about you ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Panther at November 18, 2003 06:38 PM [permalink]:

One more point: Mr/Ms/Mrs No-name mentioned the fact that the US president congratulates Iranian-Americans every Norooz. Yes that is true, but it is not because of Bush's love towards Iranians, it is because the efforts of a group of Iranians who have formed the "National Iranian American Council - NIAC" ( This are the most organization I have seen that is ran by Iranians. They are in constant contact with the government, prepare seminars, invite political figures from the government (such as Senators or even Mrs Albright), and also remind the White House when Norooz is coming. This is indeed a good examples of what "first generation" Iranian immigrants have done, but unfortunately it is small, and still unknown to very many Iranians in the US.

Panther at November 18, 2003 06:40 PM [permalink]:

The 3rd sentence in my last post must be corrected as follows: "This is the most active organization I have seen that is ran by Iranians." :-)

WhoMan at November 18, 2003 09:02 PM [permalink]:

I take your numbering to answer you back, and put everything BACK in the right context:

1- Agreed. People should do more now that the Canadian government can't go further than this. More on people in item #3.

2- I am niether pessimistic nor impatient. I totally understand your point. However, my response was in the context where we were discussing signing petitions and other actions of such nature would result immediately and push Kazemi's case.

3- You asked for statistics. Check the number of states in USA and see how many 1st generation immigrants got a high official post in the last 50 years. Try the same for the 2nd generation, 3rd, and find your up.
My point was not about family economics. It is about knowledge of the new country's culture and language and on top of all these time factor. It takes time to be able to leave one's imprint.
To put my comments into perspective: Are Iranians, as immigrants, noticeably less vocal than other groups of immgrants? My answer: Not necessarily. It is not fair to criticize them without considering all facts.
Do they need to improve their performance on this? My answer: Yes, of course, as they have right potentials.

4- My understanding of what you said in your previous comment posting was more of an impression left in society by the Iranian community. We are talking about community not an isolated individual like Calif's new gov.
Even that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are more people in the States who can attribute themselves to Austria through their ancestors than the Iranian community. But that's beside the point.
I mentioned a few factors, one of them was population. One cliche example is the Irish who based on their historic presence in N.E. of the States got a huge influnece.
About Zorros and Zapatas. Just wait and see how profound their influence is. Their power, unlike isolated individual examples, will be far more gradual, but at the same time far more fundamental!

A Reader at November 21, 2003 02:18 PM [permalink]:

Dear Mr. Whoman,

Could you let us know what you have done as the first generation in the US? Did you leave Iran before 1968? I am just curious to know.

I appreciate your response

[FToI Editor: Dear annonymous commenter,
Please avoid asking questions that can violate privacy of our commenters or be intimidating to them. This can violate the rules of FToI's comment policy. Thank you. ]