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Mixed reaction to U.S.-Iran tensions from Iranian-Canadians in Calgary

Iranian-Canadians in Calgary react to violence in Middle East
Iranian-Canadians in Calgary say there is concern about the innocent victims in Iran who may be caught in the middle of a potential war. Christa Dao has more on the growing calls for calm and de-escalation.

As the world remains glued to the latest developments between the United States and Iran, Iranian-Canadians in Calgary are also keeping a close eye on the tense situation overseas.

Those who are part of the Iranian-Canadian community in Alberta’s largest city said there is a cloud of concern among members over the innocent victims who may be caught in the crossfire if the situation escalates.

“The first concern is for safety of the Iranian people,” said Eghbal Kayaden, editor of the Irankhabar Persian newspaper. “This threat [is] between the two countries, if they want to have a war between them, so of course it’s going to affect a lot of Iranian people in Iran… so people are so worried about that.

“They are looking to be a peaceful regime for that area.”

Kayaden criticized the Iranian government, saying they are out of touch with the citizens of Iran, adding he sides with the people of Iran.

“My family is concerned,” he said. “If they’re going to have another war between U.S. and Iran… they are scared, they’re suffering in that area. They hope for peace always.”

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Kayaden also called Iran’s assassinated top general, Qassam Soleimani, a terrorist, saying his death was celebrated as a victory by many.

READ MORE: ‘More than a dozen’ missiles fired at Iraq bases housing U.S. troops, Pentagon says

Kayaden said he hopes the Canadian government continues to support the Iranian people and support human rights in that region.

“The Iranian government is so far from Iranian people, for the past 40 years,” he said.

“The Iranian people, they are fighting for democracy for the last 40 years, and this government never ever [is] on the side of the people.”

On the other side, Iranian-Canadians like Ali Alamathsaz heralded Soleimani as a hero and said the recent missile launches were justified.

“If somebody beats you, you have a right to defend yourself however you can,” Alamathsaz said. “It was a simple natural reaction to the oppression that is inflicted on them by the U.S. administration.”

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He urged the United States to proceed with caution and said there can be repercussions for not doing so.

“[If] we don’t stand against these tyrannies and injustices and these crimes… World War Three or other [wars] would be inevitable,” he said.

Alamathsaz said his family back home were saddened to hear about the military official’s killing.

“We are really sorry and saddened for what happened [to Soleimani]. Iranians poured into the streets across Iran and Iraq… they mourned because they were wounded by the huge loss of their hero,” he said.

“All the families outside Iran who have loved ones in Iran are concerned the same brutality and aggression could happen to them… we are closely watching,” he said.

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READ MORE: At least 56 dead, over 200 hurt in stampede at funeral for Soleimani in Iran

Alamathsaz is calling on Canada to pull its military members out of the Middle East.

“I would sincerely ask our Prime Minister and our government to… pull out of the Middle East, and to push for… American soldiers to pull out of the Middle East.”

One political scientist at the University of Calgary said there is a resounding call for de-escalation in the Middle East, and it comes at a critical time.

Rob Huebert, an associate professor of political science, believes the West is heading into a much more dangerous international environment and has questions about what Iran may do next.

“The Iranians have recognized they can’t match the Americans in terms of conventional force — or the West for that matter — but they’ve been very careful to start to develop unconventional forces,” he said.

“We know that the Russians are working with them. Is there going to be some form of co-operation in what we’ve come to characterize as hybrid warfare? That’s a possibility.”

Huebert said whether the situation escalates or calms down dramatically all depends on what happens in the coming weeks, adding the wild card is U.S. President Donald Trump and his plan of action in the coming weeks.

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“We’re probably not heading towards World War Three, but very possibly, [we are] heading to a very violent era in the Middle East,” he said.

“The next couple of weeks will be the most important, in terms of watching this action-reaction.”