The National Post and Ottawa Citizen on Iran’s outreach efforts in Canada

Last month I wrote about Iranian efforts to reach out to ex-pat Iranians and other Muslims in Canada, through its embassy, front organizations, student group, and funding a lavish “student conference” for those who belong to approved “cultural communities.”

My story included reference to a Farsi-language interview given by Hamid Mohammadi, Iran’s cultural counselor in Ottawa, to an Iranian government website in which he talks about the embassy’s outreach program, which includes establishing new cultural centres, sending students and professors to Iran, and equipping Canadian universities with Farsi books.

In the last two days, the Ottawa Citizen and National Post have run splashy front-page articles based on Mohammadi’s interview. These have included a healthy dose of torque. Iran does engage in espionage in Canada, and is particularly interested in the loyalties of the Iranians here, who are watched and intimidated. Those who openly oppose the regime in Tehran risk endangering their families back home. My article gave an example of a young man who protested an embassy-funded event at Carleton University and subsequently had a court summons delivered for him at a relative’s home in Tehran. But for Postmedia papers to frame Mohammadi’s remarks as essentially an admission that Tehran is recruiting spies and potential terrorists is a stretch.

All told, I’m pleased other media are picking up this story. I will admit a vanity-driven grievance, though. The Post today claims that “news of the alleged mobilization emerged this month in a Farsi-language interview given by Hamid Mohammadi …” In truth, news about Mohammadi’s interview emerged in June, when I reported on it.