Members of Toronto’s Iranian community say the news that Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a targeted attack by the United States at Baghdad’s international airport Friday means the world is a safer place.
Soleimani led Iran’s elite Quds Force that is responsible for the country’s foreign campaigns. The strike also killed many of Soleimani’s associates.
A demonstration by Iranian Canadians supporting the strike took place at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto Friday afternoon.
“I am part of the Canadian-Iranian community celebrating the elimination of one of the most notorious authorities in Iran,” protester Hosein Beyzaei told Global News at the demonstration.
“We are facing a world with one less criminal. This is good news for the region, for democracy, for freedom and as a Canadian-Iranian I definitely feel this is good news for our community in Canada as well.”
A press release from organizers read, “On Jan. 3, Qassem Soleimani the notorious commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) terrorist Quds Force, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Iraq’s suppressive Bassij was killed by the US military strike in Iraq.”
“Iranian-Canadians residing in Toronto hail the elimination of Qassem Soleimani and other notorious terrorists.”
Dozens of protesters gathered, waving the Iranian flag and holding up signs, some of which read, “1,500 protestors (sic) killed during the Iranian people’s nationwide uprising in different provinces across Iran #IranProtests,” and, “In solidarity with political prisoners and Iranian people’s uprising for regime change.”
A woman started chanting the question, “What do we want?” while protesters answered, “Regime change in Iran.”
Demonstration organizer Hamad Gharajeh of the Iran Democratic Association Canada said the community “welcomed” the news of the targeted killing of Soleimani.
Gharajeh said he hopes this development will “accelerate the process of the Iran protests.”
“They have put 12,000 innocent people behind bars as political refugees,” he continued.
“So these Iran revolutionary guards have to be dismantled. That is what the people of Iran are asking for. They are the cause of all the trouble in the region and around the world.”
A fight broke out at one point during the demonstration, but Toronto police told Global News they were on scene to keep the peace but that no arrests were made. Toronto paramedics said they were on scene assessing one patient.
Sarah Fallah, who also took part in the demonstration at the square, told Global News the crimes being committed in Iran are “crimes against humanity.”
“Congratulations to all over the world who are all against terrorism,” she said.
Fallah said she hopes the next steps will see the Canadian government support the protests taking place in Iran and to come out in support of the killing of Soleimani.
For Melika Dolati, she told Global News she hopes this will make way for a “free, prosperous and democratic Iran.”
“We don’t want anymore killings anymore terrorist attacks in the region and we are celebrating that for the youths of Iran,” she said.
The U.S. Defense Department said it killed Soleimani because he “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” It also accused Soleimani of approving the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne issued a statement Friday morning saying the country’s primary concern is the well-being of Canadians in Iraq and the surrounding regions.
“Canada is in contact with our international partners. The safety and well-being of Canadians in Iraq and the region, including our troops and diplomats is our paramount concern,” the statement read. “We call on all sides to exercise restraint and pursue de-escalation. Our goal is and remains a united and stable Iraq.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended U.S. President Donald Trump for the killing, saying the U.S. has every right to protect themselves.
Iranian leaders have warned there would be “harsh retaliation” for the killings.
“America’s action without any doubt is an act of state terrorism,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
—With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press