A Canada Reading Story

Before heading off to Ottawa, a quick blog. Of course it would be great if I were able to blog from the demonstrations but I can’t make any promises. Meanwhile, a piece of advice for readers coming to Canada – stop reading!

Books, that is.

Mahmoud Namini, a Dutch Citizen and an Iranian Refugee, was coming through Pearson airport in late October when immigration authorities found a ‘suspicious’ book, “The Bird About to Fly”, about a 1982 uprising against the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was written in Farsi and has militants dressed for battle on the cover. For that crime, he has been in detention in Toronto for a couple of months now. His fiance lives in Toronto. He was granted refugee status in Holland 10 years ago.

He needed it, because he was actually imprisoned by the Iranian regime for five years and in danger of further persecution.

Good thing people don’t have to worry about that kind of arbitrary imprisonment in civilized countries (Gandhi’s joke about Western Civilization keeps coming to mind).

Canadians who are unable to go to Ottawa and are looking for an outlet can help get Mr. Namini released, striking a blow for just immigration policy and for literacy at the same time. Details courtesy of Homes Not Bombs below.

Please forward far and wide…

Detained in Canada for “Suspicious” Reading Material

Free Mahmoud Namini and End Thought Crime in Canada 44-year-old Iranian Refugee and Dutch Citizen Jailed in Canada for Reading “Suspicious” Book

1. Introduction 2. Backgrounder 3. What You Can do: Letters and Wednesday, December 1 Vigil at 12 Noon at Judy Sgro’s Constituency office, 2201 Finch West

WHAT’S GOING ON? While Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was lecturing Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to respect democratic rights during an October visit, the Canadian Immigration bureaucracy was busy taking a page out of the former Soviet dictatorship with the detention in Toronto of Mahmoud Namini for the crime of reading a book which the Canadian government finds “suspicious”.

While Mr. Namini was coming through Pearson International Airport in Toronto in late October, immigration authorities took an immediate dislike to a book in his possession, Parandeh_ye No Parvaz (The Bird About to Fly), which documents a 1982 uprising against the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The book is written in Farsi and features a cover which shows militants dressed for battle in a jungle setting (hardly shocking given the fairly lurid covers of English-language thrillers, mysteries, and other paperbacks generally available at airports.)

Mr. Namini has been detained ever since while the Canadian government “investigates” possible security concerns related to his reading of this book.

Needless to say, at a time when Canadian literacy rates are dropping at an alarming rate, jailing someone for reading is certainly sending the wrong message to Canada’s students!

We are calling on the Government of Canada and, specifically, the ministers responsible for this outrageous detention for thought crime, to immediately release Mr. Namini. Below is a backgrounder on the case, as well as addresses for writing to ministers Judy Sgro and Anne McLellan.

WHO IS MAHMOUD? Seyed Mahmoud Namini is 44 years old, born in Tehran, Iran, and currently a citizen of Holland, where he was granted refugee status 10 years ago. He was one of thousands of individuals arbitrarily jailed for five years under the brutal regime of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran during the 1980s (and was in jail during the 1982 uprising covered in the book The Bird About to Fly).

Namini’s fiancé Nahid lives in Toronto, and was looking forward to seeing him when he came to Canada October 27. It was the latest of many trips which Mr. Namini has taken both to Canada and the United States to visit relatives, both before and after the events of 9/11/2001, all without incident or questioning.

Indeed, Mr. Namini spent five months in Canada earlier this year and was returning to Canada to finalize his marriage preparations in October. After an initial interview at the airport October 27, he was released and asked to return the next day for further questioning, whereupon he was immediately detained and subject to a barrage of questions, accusing him of membership in groups as diverse as the Kurdish Workers Party and the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan).

Namini denied membership or association with any of these groups, but was told by CSIS agents, “We don’t believe you.” In classic style, the questioning continued, with CSIS no doubt hoping the intense repetition of such questions would force Namini to either “slip up” and say something “suspicious” or simply want to end the interrogation by “confessing” to anything that would please the agents.

Mr. Namini is not involved in any of these groups. He is a Systems Administrator/ Computer Networker interested in the politics of his birth country who simply wants to get married and get on with his life.

But for now, he remains separated from his fiancé by concrete and thick glass. Both Mahmoud and Nahid awake each day and go to bed each night — if they can sleep — with one question: why this continued detention?

The Government of the Netherlands has produced a document of good conduct showing Mr. Namini has been nothing but the most respectable of individuals during his years in that country.

Inquiries made on behalf of Mr. Namini indicate it is the book he was carrying which continues to raise the alarm bells at the Canadian War Crimes Unit of Immigration, which seems so focused on Namini that it may be neglecting a great catch in George W. Bush next week in Ottawa.


Write to Immigratiom Minister Judy Sgro (who described herself earlier this week as the “Minister of Hopes and Dreams” and Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan) and CC Paul Martin. The reference to comments in Parliament refers to Ms. Sgro, and should not appear in a McLellan letter

Here is a sample letter. In order to avoid the appearance of form letters which can be ignored, please personalize your letter

Dear Ms. Sgro I am concerned about the detention of Mr. Seyed Mahmoud Namini (File 374253834138 (Client ID: 5383-4138), detained since October 28 in Toronto for what appears to be the crime of carrying a book which Canadian authorities find suspicious.

This sounds like the kind of conduct for which the former Soviet Union was repeatedly condemned, not the kind of thing which is the hallmark of a 21st century democracy.

Mr. Namini has travelled in and out of Canada and the U.S. visiting relatives for years, all without difficulty.

You have stated in Parliament in recent weeks that you try and do the right thing when it comes to people seeking to enter Canada. It is clear that you can do the right thing here by ending this arbitrary detention.

Mr. Namini and his Canadian fiancé are both aware that individuals know about his case and are writing to seek his release from detention. Rather than respond to us that you cannot comment on the case due to privacy concerns, we ask that you please take whatever measures are necessary to ensure Mr. Namini’s immediate release.

Thank you.

Name Address

Please cc letters to tasc@web.ca and free_mnl@yahoo.ca

Judy Sgro Constituency Office Tel: 416-744-1882 Fax: 416-952-1696 2201 Finch Ave W, Suite 25 Toronto, ON M9M 2Y9 sgroj1@parl.gc.ca

Parliament Hill Office Tel: 613-992-7774 Fax: 613-947-8319 Rm 207, Confederation Bldg House of Commons Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 sgroj@parl.gc.ca

Anne McLellan Deputy PM and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Edmonton Office 12304 – 107 Avenue NW Edmonton, Alberta T5M 1Z1, Canada Telephone: (780) 495-3122 Facsimile: (780) 495-2598

Ottawa Hill Office 306 Justice Building House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6, Canada Telephone: (613) 992-4524 Facsimile: (613) 943-0044 Facsimile: (613) 952-2240

4. DEMONSTRATE Join a Noon-Hour Vigil outside the Constituency office of Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, Wednesday, December 1, 12 Noon, 2201 Finch Ave West (one major block west of Hwy. 400, located in a big strip mall along with an Ontario courthouse) If you need a ride call (416) 651-5800 or email free_mnl@yahoo.ca

Sponsored by the Commitee to Free Mahmoud Namini (free_mnl@yahoo.ca) (supported and endorsed by Toronto Action for Social Change and Homes not Bombs, Toronto)

To add your name or group to the list of supporting organizations, email: free_mnl@yahoo.ca

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

One thought on “A Canada Reading Story”

  1. Thank you truly thank you .
    Thank you truly thank you . There are people like us (an old couple) who see like we do. We are old enough to remember unarmed Palestine back in 1947-8 and the terrorists who murdered the people of Palestine eg. the Stern gang who are still in power after all these years. Control of our news media by the gang is not new but we do note the greater control of our government. Thank you Light

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