Europe should speak out about Iran’s appalling rights record

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Ryszard Czarnecki [European Parliament]

Despite the recent nuclear agreement deal signed with Iran, problems with Tehran persist. Chief among these is the issue of human rights, writes Ryszard Czarnecki.

Ryszard Czarnecki is a vice-president of the European Parliament.

A lot has been said about the nuclear agreement signed between EU3+3 and Iran in the summer. But the problems with Iran are far from over. One issue that should be of major concern is Iran’s conduct in the area of human rights.

Under President Rouhani, Iran has carried out 2,000 executions over the past two years.

Some victims who were lucky enough not to be hung on giant cranes (incidentally manufactured by European countries which trade with Iran) whose purpose is not to build, but to destroy lives, have suffered forced amputations and blinding.

A few weeks ago, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said, “I urge Iran to make commensurate progress in human rights. Accelerated use of the death penalty, concerns about the right to a fair trial, and the continued detention of journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders remain major causes for concern.”

While the UN has recognised just how bad the human rights situation in Iran is, the EU has chosen to ignore this issue in its dealings with the Tehran.

The Iranian issue goes beyond their domestic torture, unjust imprisonment and murder of innocent citizens; it extends throughout the region and even the world. Despite sanctions that were crippling to Iran’s economy, the regime doubled the budget of its Revolutionary Guard force, whose primary role is to carry out terror attacks.

They have done just that, fighting in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, either directly or through sectarian militias. Their support for the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad and Nouri Al-Maliki in Iraq, both of whom have been systematically killing and repressing Sunnis in recent years, has paved the way for extremist groups like IS to grow, and forced millions of people to flee and seek refuge in Europe

All indicators point to the fact that after the nuclear deal and the corresponding economic windfall, these policies will not stop or even abate. All of their regional wars will continue to rage, and Iran will push the same brand of sectarian violence and terror; the country has even sought to expand their terror campaigns.

Iran’s neighbours in the Gulf have witnessed new terror attempts. In August, Bahrain was lucky enough to apprehend five suspects in connection with a bombing that killed two police officers and wounded six others. Just a day later in Kuwait, authorities seized an enormous arms shipment containing a total of 19,000 kg of ammunition, 144 kg of explosives, 68 weapons and 204 grenades. The Kuwaiti police also arrested a terror cell sponsored by Iran, and avoided what could have been an unbelievable degree of carnage.

The Iranian regime has made its policy very clear and has stood firmly behind it since 1979. Its policy is one of domestic repression, regional terror and global terror and is one of the most extreme brands of Islamic radicalism that exists.

In contrast, the European Union has been unclear in its policy, saying it supports democracy, human rights and freedom, yet dealing with some of the worst offenders in each of these categories, while ignoring their records.

The EU’s Foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, attended the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg on 9 September, in order to speak about the nuclear deal. A dozen MEPs strongly criticised her for not uttering a single word about human rights violations, repression against women, and public executions, during her joint press conference with the Iranian foreign minister in Tehran.

In Europe, we are all proud that the death penalty has long since been abolished. Yet the EU High Representative seems to have no problem engaging with the worst executioner state in the world, while turning a blind eye to these inhumane punishments.

As elected lawmakers, we have to defend our European values and we insist that any expansion of our relationship with Iran must come with the conditions of putting an end to executions and showing clear progress in human rights and women’s empowerment. 

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