Iranian event at Library and Archives also cancelled

Embassy Mag – –

Free Thinking Society organizer says Iranium screening cancellation likely a case of tit-for-tat.

By Lee Berthiaume
February 16, 2011

Months before Library and Archives Canada made the controversial decision to cancel the screening of Iranium, library officials cancelled a cultural event being organized by the Iranian Embassy for

fear of “violent demonstrations.”

The revelation puts a new twist on the ongoing battle raging around the Crown institution, and may explain why the Iranium screening was cancelled under mysterious circumstances.

A Window to the Sun’s Land had been organized by the Iranian Embassy’s cultural section and was being billed a chance for people in Ottawa to explore Persian culture.

Scheduled to be held in the auditorium of the National Library and Archives on Oct. 8, it was to feature photos of ancient Persia, handicrafts created by Iranian artists, a lecture and a supper. A documentary entitled Iran: Seven Faces of a Civilization and directed by Farzin Rezaeian, purporting to show 7,000 years of Iranian history, was also to be screened.

However, according to Iranian Chargé d’Affaires Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, an official from Library and Archives called the Iranian Embassy the day before the exhibition was to be held to tell them it was being cancelled.

“So just 24 hours before that program, it was cancelled by a telephone call from Library and Archives on the grounds of security concerns,” Mr. Sheikh-Hassani said.

Spokeswoman Pauline Portelance confirmed Library and Archives Canada cancelled the event for “security reasons.” When pressed, she added in an email: “LAC had to cancel because it has received threats of violent demonstrations.”

Ms. Portelance would not elaborate on the nature of the threats, but confirmed that despite the threat of violence, “we did not call the police. We just cancelled the event to protect the employees, the clients and the holdings at [Library and Archives Canada].”

On Jan. 17, Library and Archives Canada cancelled a screening of Iranium, a controversial movie about Iran’s nuclear program, after a complaint from the Iranian Embassy. It also reported receiving threats of demonstrations and two mysterious envelopes.

But Fred Litwin of the Free Thinking Film Society, which organized the Iranium screening, has openly questioned those purported threats, highlighting discrepancies in the Library and Archive’s story. When told about the cancelled Iranian cultural exhibition, he believed there was a direct connection with his screening of Iranium.

“I had heard earlier that there was an Iranian event that was cancelled,” he said. “My theory all along since I heard that was that basically when the Iranians complained, they said ‘This is not fair, you cancelled our event so you should cancel this event.’ And in this moral-relativist universe we live in, the Archives probably thought ‘That makes sense, so we’ll cancel this one too.'”

Mr. Sheikh-Hassani would not say why the Iranian Embassy objected to the Iraniumscreening. Instead, he questioned what was an apparent double standard.

“Our question, the embassy’s question, was that if such a benign event can be cancelled just 24 hours before the event by telephone on the grounds of security,” he said, “how come a film which, in our view is misinforming and promoting violence and confrontation, can be screened in a Crown institution in Canada?”

Mr. Litwin said perhaps Library and Archives Canada needs guidelines on hosting events at the institution. However, he said it’s not a straight one-for-one given that Canada has imposed sanctions against Iran and limited engagement with the country.

After Library and Archives Canada cancelled the Iranium screening, Heritage Minister James Moore intervened and ordered it shown. The documentary was presented to a full house on Feb. 6.

Mr. Moore’s spokesman, Jean-Luc Benoit, refused to comment on the Iranian cultural event cancellation, referring questions to Library and Archives Canada.