Written by Alex Cosh

CBC is being criticized for interviewing the son of a former Iranian dictator for his take on the current protests against the country’s theocratic regime following the death of a woman in police custody.

Iranian protesters allege that 22 year-old Mahsa Amini was killed on Sept. 16 as a result of police brutality, after she was arrested for violating the Islamic Republic’s oppressive dress-code laws. The regime claims she died from heart failure, a narrative rejected as false by the protesters. In response to Amini’s death, large-scale protests have broken out across the country, with women defiantly removing their hijabs and setting them on fire.

The Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights, a U.K.-based pro-democracy group that also opposes Western meddling in Iranian affairs, recently told the Morning Star newspaper: “Protesters are now calling openly for transition from theocratic dictatorship to a national democratic republic guaranteeing human and democratic rights, as well as social justice.”

The group added: “Given the highly unjust economic system and the reactionary enforcement of Islamic laws, the ruling dictatorship lost most of its social base long ago.”

As of Tuesday, at least 76 people were reported to have been killed by Iranian security forces during the protests. Hundreds more - including journalists - have been arrested, with some protesters setting fire to police cars and government buildings. As reported by The Guardian:

“Iran has summoned the British and Norwegian ambassadors over what it called interference and hostile media coverage, while the foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, also criticized US support for “rioters”.”

Canada, meanwhile, has implemented targeted sanctions. As reported by CBC News Monday:

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced … that Canada will levy sanctions on "dozens" of Iranian individuals and entities — including the country's so-called "morality police" — as security forces in Iran continue to crack down violently on protesters.”

On Tuesday, CBC’s Power and Politics interviewed Reza Pahlavi, the son and “crown prince” of the brutal U.S.-backed dictator who ruled Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ushered in the current oppressive regime run by hardline religious clerics.

Pahlavi’s father, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was handed direct monarchical rule as “Shah” following a British and American-backed coup in 1953 that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh.

In 1951, Mosaddegh’s government voted to nationalize Iran’s oil reserves and expel British oil executives from the country. In response, British intelligence services plotted and initiated the coup with CIA support.

Once in power, the Shah, relying heavily on support from the U.S. and wealthy elites within Iran, oversaw a dictatorship that imprisoned, tortured and murdered political dissidents — as the current regime does.

In his CBC interview, Reza, who recently met with European Parliament and U.S. officials to discuss the current protests, said “after 43 years, we are today witnessing Iran’s next revolution.”

He added that he hoped the protests would escalate “to the next level which would probably be also some strikes all over the country.”

“What is imperative therefore is for my fellow compatriots to know that the world is responding not only in moral support, but taking specific measures that could even put more pressure on the current oppressors.”

Reza called for the imposition of the Magnitsky Act on Iranian officials, referring to legislation that sanctions foreign government officials who are deemed to have violated human rights.

“This ought to be the norm of behaviour from now on beyond the status quo,” Reza added, before speaking about how the fall of the regime would benefit Western geopolitical interests. “Its disappearance will put an end to everyone’s concern which is of mutual interest.”

Responding to CBC’s interview, Maple contributor Jeremy Appel wrote:

“While the regime in Tehran is undeniably blood-soaked, including the blood of Canadians, we must be cautious against pushing Iranians who oppose the regime but, given the country’s modern history, rightfully fear Western imperialism back into its arms … If the goal is to give the mullahs an arrow in their quiver to point to how Western countries want nothing more than to bring back the old regime, then mission accomplished (by the CBC).”

Thomas Juneau, an associate professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa, wrote: “I don't think that the son of a deposed brutal, corrupt and repressive ruler should have much to say in discussing how to deal with the equally brutal, corrupt, and repressive regime that followed.”

Historian and Maple contributor Taylor Noakes asked CBC: “Can we go one week supporting democracy and human rights without asking for the opinion of a former Crown Prince whose family had a secret police force that tortured and murdered thousands of people?”

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