Dr. Homa Hoodfar, an anthropologist at Concordia University, has at last been liberated from the clutches of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who locked her away in the notoriously cruel Evin Prison in June. Another dual Canadian-Iranian citizen, Zahra Kazemi, died there in 2003.
Even so, the government of President Hassan Rouhani should have intervened much sooner. Dr. Hoodfar's health has been severely harmed; for some time, she was barely able to speak or walk. She was never a threat to the Iranian regime; in fact, she had taken a relatively benign view of some of its aspects.
At the same time, her extended and pointless stay in Evin was partly due to relations between Canada and Iran. Canada closed its embassy in Tehran in 2012, a year after the British embassy did so. In hindsight, the presence of a Canadian embassy might have spared much of Dr. Hoodfar's suffering, but that was the Department of Foreign Affairs' judgment at the time.
Fortunately, other states were in a position to help. Italy and Iran never entirely severed diplomatic relations, even at the lowest points of dealings between the Western world and the self-styled Islamic Republic.
Switzerland, too, was able to step in, thanks to its centuries-old neutrality, although the Swiss substantially distanced themselves from the Iranians after the UN Security Council actively worked against Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
The Sultanate of Oman is less known to most of the world, but it has a strategic position across from Iran, at the opening of the Persian Gulf. Since 1970, Oman has had a policy of trying to mediate between Iran and the states of the Arabian peninsula, and it has taken a middle position in Islamic religion, trying to accommodate Sunni and Shia Islam.
Somehow Oman, Switzerland and Italy got together, and the Iranian government realized that it would do itself no good to leave Prof. Hoodfar to die in a nightmarish prison. As well, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion had a word with the Iranian foreign minister at the United Nations in New York last week. Via the capital of Oman, she is finally on her way home.
The torment Homa Hoodfar suffered, however, was absolutely needless.