Excerpts of the interventions Friends of a Free Iran Meeting – European Parliament – Strasbourg – 7 February 2018:
Gérard Deprez, MEP, Belgium, FOFI Chair
In the face of the demonstrations that have shaken Iran as a whole, the mullahs’ regime reacted with unacceptable brutality. Thousands of protesters were put in jail. In the face of such events, a strong reaction from the European Union was needed. And I regret to say that this reaction did not live up to what is expected of the European Union. It was not until January 3, four days after Mr. Trump, that Ms. Mogherini merely called – I quote – ‘all parties’, I repeat ‘all parties’, to abstain from violence. So she made no difference between the regime’s torturers and their victims.
I think the European Union must urgently correct its shortcomings. We must express our full solidarity with the people of Iran, so they would get a message that we are on their side. The regime’s officials including the so-called supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, have blamed the PMOI, for leading the protests and have talked about executing members of this opposition movement. This shows how much the regime is afraid of the movement under the leadership of Mrs Rajavi. But, it also makes us very worried and reminds of the brutally with which they repressed the opposition, as in 1988 when 30,000 political prisoners were executed and the world was silent. This time we can no longer be silent.
The EU must give this strong message to the Iranian regime that we will not tolerate the execution of even one protester. Otherwise, we should impose sanctions to make sure that the mullahs understand that for continuing the repression and executions, they will have to pay a heavy price.
Anthea McIntyre, MEP, UK
For years, we’ve been told by the regime and its supporters, and that includes the EU’s foreign policy officials that this is very stable country with no real opposition and that the Islamic Republic of Iran has millions of supporters and so on.
Many of us, particularly those of us here as the Friends of a Free Iran have never accepted this propaganda. And why? Because we believe the Iranian people and especially the young women and men of Iran could not possibly tolerate these backward mullahs and their reactionary ideology. We have never believed that people like Rouhani and his foreign minister Zarif are moderates. We saw their human rights records and we also saw that their best friends and allies are Bashar Assad of Syria and Vladimir Putin.
And we could not believe in the Iranian elections because there was no opposition allowed to stand in these so-called elections. Most candidates were later disqualified by the Council of Guardians, a completely unelected body.
So we cannot believe the regime’s assurances about its nuclear program becausethey lied to us for years. It was only when their secret nuclear sites were revealed by the opposition NCRI, and sanctions were imposed that the regime agreed to sign the nuclear deal.
So we have not been deceived by the lies and the pro-regime lobbies’ propaganda. And the recent uprising has proved us right. All that Maryam Rajavi told us in December about the weakness of this regime, was absolutely correct. In fact, just a few weeks after she spoke in the European Parliament, the nationwide protests began and those protests spread to 142 cities.
So the Iranian regime which up to that point had been very reticent to even mention the name of the PMOI, was forced to openly admit the very effective role that this opposition is playing in the uprising. In a way, the regime has told us who and where it sees its main opposition.
Jozo Radoš, MEP, Croatia
Around 8000 are estimated to have been detained during the protest, after more than 50 people have been killed on the streets. Now, more than 10 people have died during the tortures in the prisons.
The Iranian regime continues to talk about executions. We remember the summer of 1988 when 30,000 political prisoners were executed and the international community did not say much. This time we should not be silent and we need to make it clear to our own governments and to the European Union that the human rights in Iran cannot be compromised or to be put on the sidelines with the excuse of political considerations or the nuclear deal. As you know, the regime has been forced to admit about the role of the opposition in this uprising. Rouhani even telephoned President Macron to stop PMOI and the leadership of the Iranian opposition who are in France.
I went to Paris in January to see the opposition leader Mrs Maryam Rajavi to express my solidarity with the people of Iran and their uprising for a free Iran. I found that meeting very encouraging and fruitful and I think it’s time for the European governments and the body of the European Union to start dialogue with ational Council of Resistance of Iran as it is the real alternative to this theocratic state. I am very hopeful for a future Iran but still, we need to actively support the Iranian people, especially to focus on human rights as our priority.
Beatriz Becerra, MEP, Spain
Women in Iran have demonstrated tremendous courage, fearlessly confronting armed security forces despite being empty handed. The they are encouraging others to not fear and to carry on, inviting everyone to join the protests. World media have published articles on Iranian women’s courage at the forefront of the protests. The headline of an article by the independent Women’s Forum says it all: “Women are the face of the protests in Iran”. “ The most striking images coming out of the Iran protests are not of men – they are of women!” reads another headline. According the reports by the regime’s officials, in several cities, the protests were initiated by a small group of women. The deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards on 27 January said “There were several middle-aged women among the arrested protesters”. He added “In the 1980s, those who were leading PMOI protests were mostly women. And now, the main chain of provocation and starting the protests were women. For example, four of these women turned the whole city of Ilam into protests,” he said.
Farzin Hashemi, NCRI
Let me very briefly review some of the characteristics of the uprising. The protests were nationwide. The cause of these protests are much more profound than the protests in 2009. The uprising is a response to the total failure of the regime in addressing the most basic needs of the Iranian people. In a matter of few days, protests spread to 142 cities with the same slogans and demands, which showed a clear sign of organization of the protests and the popularity of its demands. The core of the protesters were the very same segment of the society, which were thought to be the power base of the regime. Namely, the most deprived segment of the population. The slogans chanted by the people targeted the entirety of the regime. People are calling for regime change and establishment of a republic.
Another issue that I would like to briefly address, is the propaganda spread by the regime and its advocates outside the country that any attempt to regime change in Iran will lead to a situation like Syria or Iraq. This assertion is pure deception. This is a shameful pretext for supporting the religious dictatorship in Iran. The people of Iran and the Iranian resistance will overthrow the regime and no one else. Therefore, it is ridiculous to compare it with Iraq.
The situation in Iran cannot also be compared to any other country in the region for a variety of reasons. First, the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people including all ethnic and religious minorities are united in their demand for regime change and establishment of a republic. Second, this regime is detested by the people of Iran and has no popular base what so ever. Third, there is a force for change in Iran, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, with a strong network of active supporters across the country and a viable alternative in Iran, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, with a democratic platform. A democratic alternative which believes in pluralism, the right of people to freely elect their own government and representatives, separation of religion and state, gender equality, abolition of discrimination against religious minorities, recognition of the right to autonomy for different nationalities within the Iranian sovereignty, freedom of expression and assembly, freedom of association, and coexistence with the rest of the world.
Tunne Kelam, MEP, Estonia
We know that no dictatorship can last. No dictatorship. And it is high time, before the Iranian dictatorship can celebrate 40 years of existence, that we see a change. It’s high time for the change because it’s obvious we can’t ignore this serious self-sacrificing message of the Iranian people, a great majority are not satisfied. They demand a change of regime. We need to have solidarity with them. And it’s our responsibility. Because if the European Union had taken a clearer stand, much more demanding conditions, I think the regime would not be here today.
People who have ventured to the streets, who have suffered and who are asking for our solidarity. And the least we can do just now is to call the regime to release all those imprisoned, all protesters, to fully guarantee access to internet, that we express public solidarity to the Iranian people. This has to be done also on behalf of the European Commission and member states, and to make every economic and political progress in relation with the Iranian regime conditional to real convincing improvements of human rights situation. We continue our fight, we continue to stand with the Iranian people.
Patrizia Toia, MEP, Italy
As done many times during the process of MEP, I am here to testify my support to the Friends of a free Iran and to your cause and to your objectives. I am convinced that in human rights, we have to be together, and we have to show our support to the persons that now are in prison and are condemned to death, in Iran. And we cannot be “not sufficiently” together with them.
We cannot undermine the necessity to recognize the facts that things that are now happening in Iran are really bad, and we should stand together and have a clear position, even public on the necessity to denounce the violation of human rights in Iran.
I always express my deep regret and condemn the violation of human rights that are now in Iran, for the executions of minors and women that are facing great violations in Iran. I always want to express my support and I will continue to do so. Even if one has to recognize the necessity of economic relations with Iran for the development of the society, we cannot deny or even not recognize the necessity to stand together with these people in Iran.
Mark Demesmaeker, MEP, Belgium
I’m quite sure that this uprising is not over and it will continue indeed because the basic reasons why it emerged in the first place are still there. Young people took action for freedom and their blood flowed in the streets and we need international action to help those still in prison, the detainees. Let’s not forget, 12 of them already died under torture and senior government officials are talking about executions.
So our attention in the first place should be for them. And apart from protesters that the regime is repressing and may begin to execute, the government continues with executions of non-political prisoners as before. Several young prisoners who were arrested when they were 15 years old, 17 years old were executed last week after spending years in jail.
May I ask your attention for one particular man, an Iranian-Swedish medical doctor whom we know in our country Belgium as well, because he was a visiting professor at our university in Brussels. Ahmadreza Jajali was arrested while visiting his homeland in April 2016. He was convicted of so called spying and the regime wants to execute him. It is very clear this is an anti-human regime with no respect for human rights whatsoever, no difference indeed between the so-called moderates and hard liners.
The young people who protested in the recent uprising have rejected both factions and have called for the downfall of the regime in its entirety and we should respect their views and should support them in these hard times. Our meeting today shall be seen as an expression of solidarity with the Iranian people who want a regime change and nothing less.
Eduard Kukan, MEP, Slovakia
The point I wanted to question today is about the role of the European Union. What was actually the response of EU to this uprising? I am sad to say that EU’s response was a very big disappointment for the people of Iran and for us.
It took Ms Mogherini, a long 5 days to write a tweet concerning the uprising in Iran. And it still insisted on keeping close contacts with the government of Rouhani. Sorry to say, but it shows how much some of our colleagues are divorced from reality, from the real situation in Iran. The Iranian people expected Europe to strongly react to the news of the detainees being killed under torture but there was no response. I guess the Iranian people expected Europe to react when the protesters were killed by direct fire by the revolutionary guards; dozens were killed… Unfortunately, EU was silent.
I think that this is a wrong policy. It is wrong morally, politically and for our long-term interests in Iran. Mrs Maryam Rajavi who recently visited the Council of Europe has asked this question: Where is Europe’s commitment to human rights? I am afraid she will have to wait for some time to get the right answer.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, ISJ
Normally, a strong and stable regime does not bother very much about its opponents. In the case of Iran however, we see an increasing level of activities against the Iranian opposition.
In the past, the regime has been very reluctant even to mention the name of the opposition, to ignore them, to give the impression that they are irrelevant and that they have no support inside Iran. During the recent uprising in January, Rouhani accepted humiliating by himself calling President Macron to ask him to intervene to stop the activities of the PMOI who are based in France.
All these things clearly show that the Iranian regime recognizes very well the importance and the real influence of its main opposition. Consequently, we should draw the attention of our own governments and the European institutions on these facts and recommend to them to recognize the PMOI and the NCRI as the main and most reliable democratic opposition and the only credible alternative to the Iranian religious theocracy.
Regime change in Iran will only come through the uprising of the Iranian people, duly supported by political diplomatic and financial pressure from western democracies. Any other strategy based on appeasement and false illusions about the regime spontaneous evolution, is just a waste of time and a prolongation of the suffering of the Iranian citizens.
David Campbell Bannerman, MEP, UK
My heart is very much with the protesters and you know I’d love to see the regime toppled, and I think it’s an evil regime. I’m afraid the European Union here is far too cozy with Iran and actually turning a blind eye to what’s going on, because it wants to be this global player as I see it. And it aided this Iranian nuclear deal and it doesn’t want to lose that and I think that is what’s driving this.
I believe that the regime is frail, I think it is showing signs of not being able to oppress its own people to the extent it did in the past. I’m feeling the strength here in this room from MEPs, and the debates we’ve had recently, all seem to suggest to me I think we’re in for a massive change in policy and much more critical and sanctions approach to the regime, which I think is essential to get the freedom back to the people of Iran which we fully support.
Jaromír Štětina, MEP, Czech Republic
Let me express a short remark only. I want to express a short message to the Iranian people. My dear Iranian friends, people are again being killed and arrested in Iran. We share your sorrow. We understand your uprising. We share your desire to be free. We are with you. We cannot be silent any longer.
Teresa Giménez Barbat, MEP, Spain
The events of December, confirmed the disrespectful behaviour of the Iranian government towards one of the most basic rights: the freedom of expression. When people were demonstrating against the unemployment and the poor quality of life, the only answer the government provided, was violence. We cannot accept that. The European Union is based on respect of human rights.
People from Iran have all the rights to demand this, and we as members of the European Parliament, shall support their fight. Many MEPs, and I am among them, hope for a future of freedom and stability. We hope Iranian can speak freely and could be heard.
Pál Csáky, MEP, Slovakia
We are today on the 39th anniversary of the 1979 revolution in Iran. The people wanted freedom but that revolution was stolen by Khomeini and the Islamists. Now after 39 years, we have seen the brave people of Iran rising up for freedom and democracy again.
These protests gave us a lot of hope for change towards democracy in Iran. It proved the analyses of the Iranian opposition that for years have been saying that this is a very unstable and unpopular regime. So I think the European Union must now revise its policy towards Iran. The slogans of these protests and the reactions of the officials proved that there are no moderates within this regime.
It has lost all credibility both internationally and inside Iran. So, I am sure, we should therefore look for the alternative. The EU should start formal dialogue and relations with the National Council of Resistance of Iran under leadership of Mrs Maryam Rajavi. She has been here several times and there is a lot of sympathy for her and for the movement she leads in this parliament for a free Iran.
Petri Sarvamaa, MEP, Finland
In a rather sad way, I was delighted to find out that the regime disconnected and censored the internet and because this will inevitably fail. It always will in these cases sooner or later. Like our distinguished colleague Mr Kelam said, this is absolutely about making a decision on which side we are. Are we on the future side or yesterday side and the tomorrow dear Iranians, tomorrow will come. It will come.
To me it is very clear that the European Union represented by Madam Mogherini, the high representative, sent the wrong message to the Iranian people by inviting the foreign minister of the of the mullah regime to Brussels in January.
That was clearly a wrong message. So, what we are doing here is to make sure that step by step, we move towards a more rational stance and that would include 3 things: At the least, the European Union has to condemn the Iranian regime and hold it accountable for the killings and mass arrests of the unarmed and defenseless protesters.
Two: we must call on the regime to release all protesters and give a very strong warning against using any torture, mistreatment or executions of the arrested protesters. And three: condition relations with Iran to a clear progress on human rights, including freeing all political prisoners, respecting women’s rights and a halt to the horrible executions.
Arne Gericke, MEP, Germany
I think the Iranian regime has to be warned. If you don’t go a little calmer with your people, you will lose your people and that’s what happening now, and the killings and the execution are no real solutions, it’s just splitting the country and you will lose the whole country. So, I think we need to use the human rights as an orientation.
José Inácio Faria, MEP, Portugal
The recent protest which erupted on 28th of December in Iran, which rapidly escalated to 142 cities across the country and covered all the 31 provinces of the country, were the largest since the Green Movement in 2009.
Following this wave of protests, women across the country started climbing on to telecom boxes, we all saw that on the media, on the social media, taking off their headscarves, which as you know is a highly public symbol of a set of personal rules imposed by the Iranian clerical leaders and they wave them aloft on sticks. By this simple example, yet consistent of acts of defiance, these courageous and brave young women standing tall and proud in the streets or Iran with their hair uncovered, it clearly showed their dissatisfaction with the Islamic laws governing the personal conduct.
All these massive antiestablishment protests brutally repressed and suppressed by the mullahs in power as you all know, showed the world that Iran has reached a boiling point and that Iranian citizens have enough of the horror, enough of the medieval tortures and executions imposed by the mullahs in the name of God. Iranians, especially the younger generation are no longer afraid and want nothing less than a total change of regime.
Laima Andrikienė, MEP, Lithuania
I was following developments in Iran for many years, since 2004, my first term in the European Parliament. We have seen different periods, different developments in the country, something, you know becoming probably too optimistic that you know the changes were coming and then again disappointment. But this very decent wave of demonstrations through this country. And especially that the people are demanding a regime change, that they’re very outspoken about corruption, about the violation of human rights, about the poor economic situation.
I think it gives a sense of optimism to many of us. As many colleagues who spoke before me, I am sorry that reaction of the European Union was that weak and Eduard Kukan said that our high representative tweeted something on the situation in Iran after five days when the demonstration started.
In fact, she even did not bother to write her tweet, she retweeted someone else’s tweets. And I understand that we all know the reason. So, taking in to account, the number of those arrested, detained, imprisoned, tortured, executed, those numbers are shocking and we cannot be silent. I have a lot of sympathy to those young Iranians who stand for democracy.
Franc Bogovič, MEP, Slovenia
I think it’s necessary that here in the European Parliament, we say openly “It’s enough”, that we cannot look at this violence which has happened, death penalties which are happening in Iran.
There is no excuse for these things, which have happened in Iran. We all support the nuclear agreement with Iran, but we must send a clear message that we will not trade this agreement or other things with the basic values of human rights, with killing people and violence against people who don’t agree with the regime.
And I think it’s necessary that the same voice goes from all European countries and to people who are the front men of the European Union, in Commission, in Parliament and I hope there well be a democratization in Iran.
European Lawmakers Express Support for Iran Uprising
Press release- Strasbourg – February 7, 2018
On Wednesday, 7 February, the 39th anniversary of the 1979 anti-monarchic revolution, a special meeting in support of the Iran uprising was held in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Dozens of MEPs from various political groups participated and spoke about the nationwide protests which shook Iran and spread to 142 cities and to all 31 provinces.
The meeting was chaired by Gérard Deprez (ALDE) and Tunne Kelam (EPP). Dr Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a former vice-president of the European Parliament, and Farzin Hashemi from the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), were invited as guest speakers.
The following points were raised by the speakers to be of particular importance:
The people of Iran, especially the younger generation, have made it clear that they are fed up with the Islamic fundamentalist rule and want regime change. Many shouted “down with dictator,” “down with Khamenei” and “down with Rouhani.”
The backlash by the Iranian regime has been violent, with 8,000 arrests and at least 12 deaths under torture. Dozens were killed in the streets. The head of the organization of Iranian prisons has confirmed the arrest of 5,000 protesters. The European Union must act. The silence of EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and other EU officials is unacceptable. The people of Iran expect Europe to take their side.
Iran witnessed a new round of protests on 1 and 2 February. Iran’s Interior Minister has said that up to 150 protests are taking place daily. In many cities, there were anti-government demonstrations and many clashes with the repressive forces of the regime. Every day, strikes and protests are taking place.
The economy is in crisis. Unemployment and unprecedented costs of living are particularly troublesome. The value of the Iranian currency has dropped more than 15 percent in the last month.
Many senior leaders and officials of the regime from its different factions have spoken about the role of the main opposition PMOI [People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran] in the uprising. When the first protests began in Mashhad on 28 December, the representative of the supreme leader said the people came to the streets in response to a call by a group “whose leader is a woman!” According to Agence France Press, on 2 January, Rouhani called President Macron and asked him to take action against a Paris-based Iranian opposition, which he accused of fomenting the recent protests.… On 9 January, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, said the PMOI had organized the uprising, and threatened to execute the protesters.
Considering the blatant violations of human rights in Iran and the imminent threat to the lives of the detainees, MEPs expressed their support for the recent statement by NCRI president-elect Maryam Rajavi in the Council of Europe on 24
January 2018 who had called upon the EU, European governments and other international institutions to adopt effective measures and binding decisions to compel the religious dictatorship ruling Iran to release the prisoners of the uprising, uphold freedom of expression and association, end repression against women and repeal the laws imposing the compulsory veil.
The execution of a young man last week who was arrested when only 15, was another shock. The European MPs insisted that the EU refrain from making deals with companies affiliated with the IRGC and other repressive agencies.
The Iranian regime must be put on notice that new human rights sanctions could be imposed by Europe. Human rights in Iran cannot be compromised or marginalized on the pretext of political considerations or the nuclear deal. Any expansion of political and economic relations with Iran must be conditional on the release of prisoners and a halt to executions.
Gérard Deprez MEP
Chair, Friends of a Free Iran, European Parliament, Strasbourg
MEPs participating in today’s meeting included: Franc BOGOVIČ, Cristian BUȘOI, David CAMPBELL BANNERMAN, Pál CSÁKY, Mark DEMESMAEKER, Gérard DEPREZ, Stefan ECK, José Inácio FARIA, Tunne KELAM, Eduard KUKAN, Svetoslav MALINOV, Anthea MCINTYRE, Jozo RADOŠ, Petri SARVAMAA, Jaromír ŠTĚTINA, Patrizia TOIA, Bogdan WENTA, Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ, Beatriz BECERRA, Arne GERICKE, María Teresa GIMÉNEZ BARBAT, Francis ZAMMIT DIMECH and Milan ZVER.
Friends of a Free Iran (FoFI) is an informal group in the European Parliament which was formed in 2003 and enjoys the active support of many MEPs from various political groups