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UK House of Commons Calls on Gov to Proscribe IRGC and Support Iran Uprising

UK House of Commons 13012023
UK House of Commons

On January 12, following a parliamentary debate at the British House of Commons, members of the parliament unanimously and in a cross-party fashion, passing the motion initiated and presented by Bob Blackman, urged the government of the United Kingdom to proscribe the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity and support Iranian Uprising.

Prior to passing the motion, some of the MPs called on the government to sanction Tehran for human rights violations, close the regime’s embassy in London and expel its diplomats from British soil, support the Iranian people in their aspirations for a free, democratic and secular Iran, refer the regime’s appalling human rights dossier to the UN Security Council, and stop all negotiations with Tehran.

Some of the MPs clearly expressed their support of the Iranian Resistance and the 10-point-plan of NCRI President-elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi as a roadmap for the transition to a free, democratic and secular republic.

The text below reflects a partially selected substance of the MPs’ statements. Minor edits have been implemented for clarity:

Full statements can be found on the Hansard website at the following address:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2023-01-12/debates/8B0B0A39-4FF0-4EFF-960D-8D3A51F0ED79/Iran

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green/Con):

On proscription — I am co-chair of the all-party group on Magnitsky sanctions—the United States and many other countries have already proscribed and sanctioned the republican guard in Iran, so why are the UK Government dragging their feet over what is clearly a required action, given that the republican guard is so heavily involved in the brutality and murder of people?

Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon/LD):

May I add my voice and those of my Liberal Democrat colleagues to the call for proscription, as that is way past due? The Minister would have support from all parts of the House if he chose to announce that at the Dispatch Box today, and we sincerely hope he does.

Dr. Matthew Offord (Hendon/Con):

The Iranian regime does not comply with the rule of law in its own country. If it is prepared to act like that and ignore its own legislation, surely we have a much stronger hand in proscribing the IRGC in its entirety.

Iran continues with aggressive tactics, including a cyber-attack on this very Parliament. Iran attempted the same on public services in Albania during an opposition rally. Iran also supports military actions in Yemen and Syria. It has destabilised the political process in Lebanon and Gaza through its active support of Hezbollah. A serving Iranian ambassador coordinated and supplied explosives that could have killed hundreds of elected politicians in Paris in 2018, including myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East. These acts were coordinated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is seeking to spread terrorism around the world.

I feel that the UK Government have not acted as swiftly or gone as far as they could. There remains confusion on whether the IRGC has been or is to be proscribed in its entirety.

Failing to proscribe the IRGC under the Terrorism Act 2000 only emboldens the Iranian Government to continue their suppression of their people.

But we need further action. I want to see a cutting of all political ties and no further negotiations with the Islamic regime of Iran. I want to see the termination of the joint comprehensive plan of action in its entirety. I want to see the invoking of the snapback sanction mechanisms under UN Security Council resolution 2231. I want to see the closure of all Iranian-funded Islamic centers across the United Kingdom. I want to see the recalling of the British ambassador from Iran. I want to see the expelling of the Iranian ambassador and all diplomats from the United Kingdom and the freezing of all assets of Islamic regime officials and their families. Most of all, I want to see a maintaining of the sanctions and visa bans on anyone linked to this wicked regime.

John Spellar (Warley/Lab):

The Government has continued not to proscribe the IRGC, as was the case with Hezbollah until finally, they had to do so. Is it not now time to proscribe the IRGC, which destabilises the region through terrorist activities and front organisations, operates international gangsterism and is the absolute bedrock of support for this clerical fascist regime?

Bob Blackman (Harrow East/Con):

Iran’s people have risen to defeat religious tyranny and its repression and terrorism. They have chosen to pay the price of freedom with their blood. The UK and the whole international community should rise in solidarity by helping the Iranian people realise their democratic aspirations, which the UK Government can do by taking the following necessary steps.

The Government should demand that the Iranian regime immediately halt trials, convictions, and executions of protesters in Iran. The UK Government lags behind its European counterparts, who are even sponsoring individual protesters who are in prison and at high risk of execution. We could follow that lead. We should recognise the legitimacy of the fight of the Iranian people against the evil and terrorist forces of the IRGC and officially recognise the Iranian people’s revolution to establish a republic based on democratic values.

We should recognise that the people of Iran have a democratic alternative, the goals of which are enshrined in the 10-point plan articulated by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the NCRI. The Government should support that Iranian solution, as was recommended by more than 230 Members from across the parties in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in our joint statement in December 2022.

The Government should refer the appalling dossier of the regime’s systematic violations of human rights and crimes against humanity to the United Nations Security Council for the adoption of binding deterrent measures. The regime leaders must be brought to justice to end impunity and prevent the cycle of crime and terror.

Next, we should proscribe the IRGC in its entirety to deny it the funds and resources it needs to crush the nationwide uprising and export terrorism abroad.

We must close the regime’s embassy and affiliated institutions, as well as expel diplomats and agents of the regime in the UK who provide support for the violent repression of dissidents and activists in the UK. We must widen sanctions to target the political leadership that is responsible for the conduct of the regime—the supreme leader, the President, the IRGC and everyone within the governing structure—and encourage our allies to do the same.

We must stop any form of negotiation or concessions to the criminal rulers of Iran. In view of the death sentences against protesters detained during the current uprising, we must act immediately, together with international partners, to ensure that the international fact-finding mission created by the UN Human Rights Council visits the prisons in Iran and speaks with the detained protesters and political prisoners as soon as possible.

Jointly with our P3 allies, we must announce a definitive and permanent end to efforts to secure a nuclear deal. Iran’s nuclear activity is merely a symptom. We should be tackling the disease: the regime itself. It is not good enough simply to say, as the United States has done, that the deal is not the focus right now. Iran’s protesters want to see a harder line. Deterrence, rather than talking, is the appropriate posture.

Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton/Con):

Within 48 hours of every state murder of a protester, the west, our allies, and the UK should impose specific sanctions, because otherwise there is no direct response to prevent each individual execution.

When we look at why the IRGC is a terrorist organisation, we should not forget its activities in its immediate region. In Iraq, we have Iranian militia committing massacres against religious minorities, ostracising communities, threatening politicians, and making Iraqi politics inherently unstable.

The Iranian regime is part of the reason Assad is still in power. It was never the intention of the Government to bring down Assad—I never heard that sentiment uttered once in my time working there—but did we think that he could not bring peace, stability or freedom to the people of Syria? Absolutely. Iran has now turned Syria into a drug superstate, with class A drugs—especially things such as fentanyl—produced en masse. Those will make their way to British shores.

In Lebanon, Iran is destabilising en masse. We have cholera outbreaks and all sorts of appalling fragilities in that country that should not be there. Hezbollah and Hamas continue to be stood up by Iran.

I argue that Iran is a terrorist regime, whether because of its activities at home, in Europe, in the UK or in its region, and we must act.

We need sanctions after every single state murder, we must consider recalling our ambassador, we must reconsider whether we are having any meaningful impact in Iran, and we must make sure that we look at a new international, multilateral effort to prevent nuclear war from coming to the middle east and allowing this terrorist state to get those powers.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South/Lab):

I hope that the Minister will set out how the Government plans to hold the Iranian regime to account for its gross human rights violations when they plan to follow the US and other countries in formally proscribing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation, and what further targeted sanctions they will take against the Iranian regime, particularly the IRGC support bases on British soil.

Mr. David Jones (Clwyd West/Con):

People are losing their lives. It is estimated that in the past four months security forces have killed more than 750 demonstrators, over 70 of whom were young people under the age of 18. So far, more than 600 individuals killed in the protests have been identified by the principal opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, which also estimates that over 30,000 protesters have been detained. The regime is executing those protesters.

Despite the harshness of the regime’s response, they remain undeterred. It is noticeable that most protesters are young and many are women. They come from all backgrounds: university and high school students, bazaar traders, manual workers, intellectuals, and people of all ethnic backgrounds and social classes. Thousands upon thousands of them continue to take to the streets, calling for the downfall of the regime and its leaders. It is very clear that what we are witnessing is a very active political movement of people who are no longer willing to put up with the medieval theocratic regime under which they have lived for more than 40 years, and who are seeking to replace it with a modern, democratic, secular Government.

As other hon. Members have said, it is surely now time for the Government to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety. The IRGC is the regime’s principal means of exerting control and repression of the Iranian people. Furthermore, it is one of the world’s foremost exporters of terror.

The Government should also invoke the global human rights sanctions regulations against officials of the regime, including President Ebrahim Raisi, who, according to Amnesty International among others, was a member of the so-called death commission that extrajudicially executed thousands of political dissidents in secret in 1988—the notorious 1988 massacre of political prisoners. The Government should continue to work with international partners to impose a coordinated diplomatic boycott on Iran and demand the immediate release of political prisoners. They should also work through the UN Security Council to insist on access to Iranian prisons and arrange for human rights officials to meet detained protesters.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead/Lab):

 What the right hon. Gentleman says about the IRGC is entirely accurate. They are a bunch of clerical fascists who rape, kill and maim their way around Iran and outside Iran’s borders. I think there is a consensus across the House that the organisation should be banned, so what does he think is holding the Government up? I think there is sympathy among Ministers to ban the IRGC, but I cannot see what is stopping Ministers from finally making that decision.

Anna Firth (Southend West/Con):

This is more than just a movement to secure the removal of forced veiling, valid though that aim is; it is now a movement towards lasting democratic change. When the regime does change, I hope that the tenets set out in the 10-point plan of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, are looked at and embodied. Those points call for nothing less than complete gender equality—gender equality in the realms of political, social, cultural, and economic rights—as well as equal participation for women in political leadership, the abolition of any form of discrimination against women, the right to choose one’s own clothing freely, the right to freely marry, the right to freely divorce, and the right to obtain education and employment. Those are rights that all women in this place and throughout the western world take completely for granted, and quite rightly.

To conclude, proscribing the IRGC would send a strong signal to the Iranian regime that it cannot continue to suppress women. It would send a strong signal to the women of Iran that the UK is on their side. Above all, it would send a signal to the Iranian regime that its time is up. Change is coming. The people of Iran will continue to fight for that, and we in this place will continue to stand with them and support it.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington/ Lab):

We in this House are committed to diplomacy as much as we possibly can be, but there does come a time when diplomacy is no longer working and when, in some ways, the diplomats who are located here are working against the best interests of our country and our citizens, as well as of their own. I, therefore, agree with the closure of the Iranian embassy and the expulsion of the diplomats. I believe that is now overdue.

To move on to the workers’ movement in Iran, the interesting thing about this uprising, or potential revolution, is that it cuts across all social and economic classes and has brought people together. For those who were engaged at the time, it is worth recalling that when the Shah fell in 1979, it was largely a result of mass strikes throughout 1978. The workers’ movement became the tipping point for the removal of the Shah. It is also important to note that no Iranian I have spoken to so far is calling for the return of a monarchist Government. They are calling for a democratic Government, even though the Iranian regime is seeking to promote the myth of some form of retrieval of a Shah-type regime. That is not what this is; it is a democratic struggle.

Fleur Anderson (Putney/Lab):

What can we do? First, we must continue to stand firmly against the Iranian regime. The Government’s announcement of sanctions against certain regime figures is welcome, but they should be the start of more. We must continue to ramp up our sanctions regime, bringing to justice human rights abusers from the bloody 2019 crackdown as well.

What would it take for the Government to take steps to expel the Iranian diplomats here? I understand that the consequence would be the expulsion of our diplomats from Tehran. Could the Minister outline the benefit of our diplomats staying in Tehran—that would be the reason not to expel the diplomats here—but also what it would really take: what are the red lines by which we would expel the diplomats here? We cannot continue to say that this is a regime similar to others—as we have heard today, it has gone far beyond that.

Jim Shannon (Strangford/DUP):

The reality of what is happening has to be put on record: the protests are widespread and well organised. As Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the largest Iranian opposition group has highlighted, the protests are not limited to the issue of the compulsory hijab. This is a revolution.

The people of Iran are calling for an end to the Islamic Republic in its entirety, rejecting any form of dictatorship. They do not want either the mullahs or the return of the Shah dictatorship. As the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) said, those are not the things they want; they want a free, democratic society, and we support them. They want a democratic and secular republic in which the rights of every individual—every man, every woman, and every child—are protected. The National Council of Resistance of Iran’s 10-point plan for a future Iran would deliver exactly that. I put on record my support for that 10-point plan.

Only by understanding the true nature of what is going on in Iran can we deliver the support that the Iranian people need. That support must now take a number of forms. We must recognise the Iranian people’s rights to oppose the Iranian regime’s suppressive and despotic forces. We must recognise the revolution that is taking place. Furthermore, we must intensify pressure on the Iranian regime’s suppressive forces by listing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation.

Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute/SNP):

I echo the calls made for the proscription of the IRGC. If we are not going to proscribe that organisation, the Minister will have to explain why.

 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs, Leo Docherty:

We continue to monitor and take seriously the activities of cultural centers and anything else in that regard. With regard to sanctions, we strive to exert maximum pressure on anyone associated with the regime through our sanctions regime.

In conclusion, Iran must abide by international rules and it must be held to account for its destabilising activity in the region and around the world. The UK will continue to work relentlessly with our international partners to ensure that that happens. We do not know what the political future of Iran looks like; of course, that must be for the people of Iran to decide. However, it is clear that the current leaders have got things very badly wrong. By recklessly blaming everyone but themselves for the anger and unrest, they are destroying their legitimacy—what legitimacy they have left—in the eyes of their own people and the world. We should be clear that there is, of course, a place in the international community for a responsible Iran—one that respects the rights and freedoms of its people. However, for the sake of Iran’s prosperity, security, and its future standing in the world, we urge the regime to listen to our calls to release its political prisoners and end these outrageous, deeply deplorable, and cruel executions.