Iran’s nationwide protests continue to expand. After 13 days of demonstrations, the Iranian people have once again shown their desire for regime change by holding protests; despite the regime’s heavy crackdown as protests continue, the international support for Iran’s protests mounts.
In this regard, Member of the European Parliament, Jan Zahradil from the Czech Republic, expressed his utter support for the Iranian people and their protests while shedding light on the European Union’s obligation regarding the current uprising. Below is his interview with the Iranian opposition satellite channel Iran NTV (Simaye Azadi).
Q: Mr. Zahradil, twelve days have passed since the day Iran erupted in a new uprising against the regime, and three days ago, the E.U. issued a declaration on the event. It was on Sunday, I think. What should one expect after this on the European side? Do you expect the next Foreign Affairs Council to take decisive action on this?
Mr. Zahradil: Yes, it’s true that there have already been some resolutions, some statements taken by the European side coming from European situations. I believe that these statements should be followed by actions, particularly from the level of the Council of the E.U. There is a summit of E.U. leaders in Prague next week, and then subsequently, there will be a regular council E.U. in the third week of October in Brussels, and in the meantime, that would also be for the foreign affairs council. So I think that either at all these three events or at least some of them, there should be a point on the agenda dealing with the situation in Iran and following our condemnations of what’s going on there from the side of the regime and some kind of encouragement of democratic forces calling for freedom and more democratization of the regime.
Q: This might be the longest uprising in Iran in years. From your point of view, what do you see different in this compared to the previous ones in 2019 and 2020 or 2017? Because I know that you have been following the Iranian struggle quite from close.
Mr. Zahradil: It is somehow similar, and yet it is also different, as you correctly pointed out. The thing is that it started as usual with a violent act committed by the regime, which is the de facto murder of an innocent victim of a young lady, by the so-called morality police for very redundant reasons. And it once again has shown the oppressive face of the Iranian regime. So we have unfortunately regrettably seen this situation in the past. What makes this particular situation, this particular uprising different is that processes are nationwide that we have seen, for instance, things we have never seen before like posters or banners or statues of Khamenei, Qassem Soleimani, and other leaders of the regime or anything the fact of bearing the regime insignia torched by young people in most cities. And also, we have seen a lot of organized nature behind the protest. And in this, I would like to point out the existence and also the strategy of so-called resistance units that are linked to the best-organized Iranian exile opposition, the PMOI. And I think that what is apparent is that those resistance units proved to be quite effective. They started by writing slogans, distributing messages, and installing posters in public venues.
Now they are also very efficient in networking with people, sending video messages, in making those groups of protesting people interconnected so that they can become larger groups. And I think that this shows some growing impatience and growing concern of the Iranian population with the regime, and hopefully if the pressure continues, that could lead to some changes we all call for and wish for.
Q: We noticed considerable international support for the current uprising that is a specification of this case, but one wonders in what measures can the international community go beyond words to help the Iranian people in their quest for liberty. What could you suggest in this?
Mr. Zahradil: Well, we have in the European Parliament an inter-parliamentary group, which is called Friends of Free Iran, and it really includes members or MEPs from all relevant political groups in the European Parliament. And we were trying to be active, and we were trying to push European institutions to go for more vocal support and also a sharper position and a better-defined position vis-a-vis Iran. So I think the least we can do is not to continue appeasement of the regime, particularly when it comes to some efforts to renew the nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran. We have noticed that there is unlike the previous U.S. administration. There is a rather conciliatory tone coming from the current U.S. Administration. But we cannot from Europe influence what the U.S. administration is doing. We can influence what the European administration is doing, what the European Commission is doing, and the European Parliament and European Council, and of course, we think that we should push our leaders at least to the situation where they would not be able to make further concessions to the Iranian regime. For instance, last week, we saw a meeting between Charles Michel, the president of the Council of the E.U., and Iranian President Raisi in New York, and to the surprise of many of us, Mr. Michelle seemed to be full of goodwill. He repeatedly reconfirmed a willingness to renew the nuclear deal and push it further and go as fast as possible. I don’t think that we should send such signals in this situation to the regime. I don’t think that we should make gestures of goodwill. We should rather make or raise conditions because if the country and the regime are hit by a popular protest, we cannot act as if nothing happened. And I believe that this should be discussed again in relevant European institutions at relevant E.U. meetings. And I’m absolutely determined and absolutely sure that a number of E.U. member countries would not be happy with what Mr. Michelle has said in New York, and they will have some questions. So I believe that the European Union should come with a sharper and better-defined position, much more critical, vis-a-vis the Iranian regime.
Q: That’s a good point. We’ve witnessed the last two weeks Iranian youth and women especially facing suppressive armed police and military forces barehanded. Do you think that when we’re talking about the strongest E.U. position, just even beyond the E.U., the international community should be able to revert to some sort of preventive action or save innocent lives?
Mr. Zahradil: Frankly speaking, I don’t know the fact that we cannot intervene. We cannot directly be involved in the situation. Another fact is that when I recall the fall of the communist regime, for instance, at the end of the 80s, the situation was quite different, particularly in technology. We haven’t had any Internet, and we haven’t had any Facebook, we haven’t had any social media. There were no mobile phones at that time. So the interconnectivity today is much better and much better advanced. And I think that it should be used thoroughly. I always rely on the soundest international support. We, as a group of Friends of Free Iran, are ready to do that, to provide you with all our possible support. And we think that institutions must speak up. And I think that the minimum we can do, or the minimum the international community can do, is not to continue some steps and not to continue some talks that, in the end, are very beneficial just for the regime and that are legitimizing the regime further on. But the international community should rather show restraint and should show that they care about the situation. They care about protesters. They would not allow those people to be suppressed or humiliated.
And I think that we have to do it in the strongest way possible.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for the time and for the answers to our questions, and we’re hoping you all the best thank you again for all the support you’ve shown for the Iranian Resistance Movement and the Committee for a Free Iran, and again, thank you.
Mr. Zahradil: Thank you very much. My country is now presiding over the Council of the E.U., and I can assure you that we will try to do our best to put that point on the agenda and to proceed further so that we will bring some visible results very soon. Thank you very much. All the best. Good luck.