The Iranians We Left Behind

by John Mundy Publié dans le Globe and Mail, 25 octobre 2012 When Canada closed its embassy in Tehran last month, it wasn’t just Canadian diplomats who were affected. We left behind a small number of local staff, and their plight deserves attention. Blindsided by Ottawa’s decision, they’re now in danger of becoming collateral damage

by John Mundy

Publié dans le Globe and Mail, 25 octobre 2012

When Canada closed its embassy in Tehran last month, it wasn’t just Canadian diplomats who were affected. We left behind a small number of local staff, and their plight deserves attention. Blindsided by Ottawa’s decision, they’re now in danger of becoming collateral damage in the dysfunctional relationship between Canada and Iran.

Canadian embassies are made up of both Canadian and local staff. The Canadians are sent from Canada as diplomats, and locals are recruited to support them. Sometimes local staff are also Canadian citizens – this is the case for some of our former Iranian staff – but they don’t have the same privileges as Canadian staff and are not subject to the same protections.

Their duties range from janitorial services, clerical functions and driving to providing consular assistance, accounting services and political research. Needless to say, our embassies can’t operate without local employees, who share the benefits of working for an embassy as well as the risks. A diplomat caught in a demonstration relies on his driver to reach safety. Meetings with political dissidents require translation services. Consular assistance to Canadians in distress relies on deep local knowledge, which only a local employee can provide….

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