(This column was published in the North Shore News on July 30, 2003)
Policeman hostage to International politics
By Leo Knight
WHEN a 25 year police veteran in Port Moody responded to a "man with a machete" call last week, little did he know he would become embroiled in an international spitting contest centred around two killings and that he would become the meat in a political sandwich.
Around 2 a.m. July 21, two women left a billiards hall in their car. They were rammed by a black Honda Prelude with three men in it.
According to published reports, at least one of the men, Keyvan Tabesh, got out of the Prelude with a machete in hand. He smashed the weapon into the vehicle several times, breaking a window and scaring the hell out of the two women, who in turn, dialled 9-1-1 for help.
A veteran officer spotted the Prelude and attempted to stop it. The Prelude sped away and further police units were called to assist.
It was reported that Tabesh's vehicle then turned onto a short street which turned into a cul-de-sac. As soon as the Prelude stopped, Tabesh jumped from it and ran at the police officer waving the machete in the air. Another young man in the Prelude also ran toward the officer.
In the next few seconds, the officer, with the machete wielding man coming fast, fired five shots as he closed to within 10 feet. When the smoke cleared, Keyvan Tabesh, only 18 years old, lay dead.
A tragedy indeed. And, in the normal course of events, people would cluck their tongues about the waste of a young life, the family would be forever touched by the grief that only burying a child can bring, and the officer would try to deal with some emotional demons, struggling to make some sense of doing a job that required him to take a life.
But then events, far from the municipal borders of tiny Port Moody, pressed the local tragedy into an international war of words.
When the Ayatollahs in Iran tied the shooting of Tabesh, an Iranian national, to the beating death of Zahera Kazemi, a Canadian journalist also of Iranian birth, the Port Moody incident suddenly became international news.
Now, on the surface of things, any attempted linkage is ridiculous and should probably be ignored. Likely it would have been ignored beyond the passing of a diplomatic note or two, before September 11 and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
But with the potential for Iran to be next in Uncle Sam's sights, any interaction between a Western government and the Ayatollahs could have ramifications far beyond the matter at hand.
Now, the manner in which the Government of Canada handles or mishandles this, as the case may be, this diplomatic row with what passes for government in Iran is incidental in many ways to what happened in Port Moody.
But already you can see the nefarious machinations of that despicable government at play. Unfortunately, the career of a man who has served his fellow citizens well for a quarter of a century may get trampled in the stampede to defuse the political crisis.
Witness the dramatic change in response of Tabesh's father, Nasser, since the first Iranian government salvo.
Two days after the events, suggestions were being made that the shooting was "racist."
It seems every time a white cop shoots someone from a visible minority the shooting must somehow have been racist.
Trust me, the charging man with a raised machete could have been white, black, brown, yellow or purple with pink polka dots, the outcome would have been the same.
A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry accused the Canadian police of targeting Iranians in this country. The blatant stupidity of that remark was pointed out by the father of the shooting victim, Nasser, who was quoted in the Globe and Mail two days after the shooting, responding, "My son had blue eyes. He had a European face, like he was from England or Spain, not Iran. This is not racist."
Another two days later, Tabesh's sister, Rita, said the family was puzzled by the stance taken by Iran in the matter. She said it was a social problem not a political problem.
Then, seemingly from out of the blue, in the July 27 Province is a story headlined "My Son is Innocent."
In that story Nasser is quoted telling the Islamic Republic News Agency that his son, Keyvan, "was absolutely innocent.
"Keyvan was on his way to bring two of his friends to their homes when he was shot in the heart by a person who did not even resemble a policeman," continued the victim's father.
If you run at someone with an upraised machete, the sense is that you mean to strike that person with the weapon. That the individual was a plainclothes police officer who happened to have a gun and used it, does not alter the act being committed by Tabesh the younger.
However this plays out is yet to be seen. But, it is up to the federal government to ensure the police officer who fought off the attack won't be made a scapegoat in the interests of political expediency.
God help him.