Toronto, 15th December 2018
Iranian American comedian, Maz Jobrani used his two sold-out comedy shows at the Toronto Centre for Arts on 15th December to call for the release of Saeed Malekpour a Canadian permanent resident unjustly jailed in Iran since 2008.
The International Observatory of Human Rights brought Saeed’s sister, Maryam to the evening event and partnered up with Amnesty International Canada to encourage the audience to sign a petition to free Saeed and show and share their support through social media on hash-tag #Freesaeed.
Maz Jobrani took time during both shows to call on the maximum capacity crowds to support the campaign for Saeed. He explained why he felt compelled to act after being introduced to Maryam Malekpour through his friend the actress Nazanin Boniadi. Jobrani said:
“I was saddened to hear about Saeed Malekpour’s case by his sister Maryam. He [Saeed] is a Canadian resident who has been unjustly held in an Iranian prison and suffering health issues that require the authorities to give him immediate attention. When Maryam asked me to take a moment at the end of my shows in Canada to shine a light on his situation and call for his release it was something I felt I had to do.”
IOHR and Maryam Malekpour met with Maz Jobrani just before he went on stage to entertain over a thousand fans. He promised to support the campaign and spoke of his hope that “others around the world read about Saeed and join the movement.”
Aubrey Harris of Amnesty International Canada who has been volunteering for Amnesty in Canada for eleven years described the event as “unique”:
“Tonight’s event has been incredible. We have seen so many members of the public wanting to participate and learn. It’s just been a fantastic response,” Harris said.
Harris leads the Amnesty campaign against the Death penalty in Iran and first learned of the case in 2008 when Saeed was given that sentence.
“I have always felt close to Saeed, we are the same age, he used to go hiking in the part of Canada where I spent my summers. His case is so unjust and all of us here have worked so hard to get him released,” added Harris.
IOHR worked with the Amnesty volunteers to speak to as many visitors to the booth and gather their signatures to as many as possible.
“This sort of cooperation is what makes an event like this really work. It’s been great to work with IOHR on this activity, ” commented Harris.
Hundreds of people visited the stand after each show and signed the petitions. Many of the attendees met Maryam and expressed their heartfelt support.
There were a lot of Iranians in the audience who knew about Saeed’s case. However, IOHR Director, Valerie Peay, who had travelled from the UK to support Maryam on the night, described her conversations with the younger crowd.
“So many people said they did not know about Saeed and the injustice done to him and other detainees in Iran until tonight. It was really uplifting to hear their enthusiasm to do something, to help, to share and most importantly to learn about human rights violations and what can be done to change the plight of these poor individuals,” said Peay.
“By giving his stage and his voice to make this event happen, Maz Jobrani has shown the way for a new generation of supporters. Saeed has been in prison for ten years and it is acts of kindness such as this which will keep his campaign alive until he comes home to Canada,” commented Peay.
Maryam Malekpour has tirelessly campaigned for her brother’s release and has recently launched a website www.freesaeednow.org to raise funds to continue to fight for her brother’s release especially since his recent heart attack. Saeed’s health is in steady decline and without access to proper medical care.
“My brother does not deserve to die in prison. He is innocent and must be released immediately,” Maryam commented as she called on the Canadian Government to increase their efforts to push for her brother’s release.
The International Observatory of Human Rights was established in 2017 in London as an independent non-profit and non-governmental organisation. The team is made up of human rights professionals, lawyers, researchers, award-winning journalists and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.
Saeed Malekpour has spent the last ten years living in terrible conditions in an Iranian prison. Like other dual nationals and permanent residents, he is being held in complete disregard of his foreign status and with next to no engagement with, or responses to, the Canadian government. Saeed was a web developer and became a permanent Canadian resident in 2004. He went on a short trip back to Iran in 2008 to spend time with his dying father. Officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards detained him on the street without an arrest warrant on 4 October 2008. Saeed was given a death sentence for allegedly creating an web program designed to allow users to share photographs on the internet which, the Iranian authorities said was used on pornographic websites- although not by Saeed.