Don Martin: Nazanin Afshin-Jam shouldn't shy from media spotlight
Nazanin Afshin-Jam talks to Defence Minister Peter MacKay in this undated photo. (MySpace)
Published Thursday, July 26, 2012 5:12PM EDT
It’s an unwritten rule, but MP spouses are to be seen for public consumption and never heard in political communication.
This is particularly true in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s realm, where staying on message applies to everyone in orbit around his heavily scripted MPs.
That’s why Defence Minister Peter MacKay might have a reoccurring headache in his love life.
MacKay is married to Iranian-born Nazanin Afshin-Jam. She’s a high-profile human rights activist and former Miss World Canada of extraordinary beauty who has never hesitated to speak out against the mistreatment of children living desperate lives in foreign misery.
Last week she went further, suggesting the Canadian government close Iran’s embassy in Ottawa for merely serving as a propaganda arm and recruiting centre for the Islamic regime.
She also recently published a decent autobiographical account of her successful crusade to save a young girl from execution in Iran after stabbing her attempted rapist.
But after showing up to promote her book this week, a Charlottetown journalist steered the interview away from predictable author talk and pressed her on Omar Khadr’s homecoming to Canada after a decade in U.S. captivity for killing an American soldier.
“I'm not saying that he shouldn't be kept in prison, but definitely I think it's time to bring him back to Canada,” she said. “He was a Canadian citizen and he can be tried here or looked after here in terms of how long his sentence is going to be or what is going to be his fate.''
The personal views of a politician’s partner shouldn’t matter much. And her take doesn’t exactly condemn the Harper government, which has reluctantly accepted Khadr’s inevitable return eventually.
But Twitter went into hypertweet and official eyebrows were raised at her opinion while her own reaction to the article hints at political sensitivity behind the scenes.
Afshin-Jam quickly posted a seething statement, denouncing the reporter for ignoring her book in favor of government issues. And she repeatedly complained she “was tired of seeing my name continually left out of interviews and referred to as ‘The Defence Minister's wife.’"
Well, Nazanin, welcome to political reality.
Yet that reporter rebuke for ignoring her preferred coverage could be a worrisome sign the legendary PMO control freakishness is rubbing off on her.
If so, that’s a shame.
Afshin-Jam has rare insights into Iran and the suffering of children in captivity under the most repressive regimes in the world. And she has the gift of exemplary media skills to highlight her crusades.
Instead of shying away from expressing her views under the guise of political correctness, she should embrace the heightened media interest generated by her marital status to loudly sound the alarm whenever she sees fit.
Besides, if she wants to continue identifying herself as an “international human rights activist” instead of “Defence Minister’s wife,” she cannot cherry-pick the cases worthy of her comment.
There are far too many children suffering unspeakable mistreatments from oppressive governments in this world.
They need more influential activists like Nazanin Afshin-Jam to expose their plight while Ottawa needs far fewer silent spouses to meekly serve as political arm candy.