On 3 April, in a bold and timely move and as part of its new strategy on Iran, the European Union (EU) passed a resolution that while welcoming the continuation of the current political engagement between Tehran and world powers, strongly criticised the Islamic Republic for “continuous human rights violations of the Iranian people.”
The EU condemned restrictions on almost every aspect of the social life of the Iranian people, including “freedom of information, association, expression, assembly, religion, academic freedom, freedom of education and of movement.”
The resolution also calls for the opening of a permanent EU Office in Tehran and demands all Iranian political prisoners and opposition leaders arrested after the 2009 election protests, be freed.
Although the demands of a legislative body of ‘foreigners’ based thousands of miles away from Iran lacks any practical means for their implementation, the hysterical and yet predictable reaction of the despotic rulers of the country speaks volumes about the extent of the abuse of the human rights of the Iranian people as well as the vulnerability and weakness of the regime.
“In our view the EU resolution is worthless and they [the EU] are smaller than picking a political quarrel with us”, muttered President Rouhani in a hastily arranged meeting with his government ministers.
“The EU parliament is not in a position, nor has it the moral authority to take such measures against our country”, announced his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Meanwhile, Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to supreme leader Ali Khamenei observed: “It is a pressure tool and these kinds of unjust judgments are of no value to the Iranian nation”.
Ali Larijani, the speaker of Majlis, said the EU resolution was “politically motivated” and the foreign ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham called it “completely unfounded and unacceptable”. Jumping on the band- wagon, a group of Iranian MPs said they would retaliate by passing a bill requiring the government to take the fingerprints of any EU nationals visiting Iran.
Not to miss the occasion for a sound bashing of western values, Ayatollah Movahedi Kermani, the Friday’s prayer imam, noted – somewhat confusingly – that the EU was after “spreading homosexuality in Iran through their disgraceful resolution”.
And on the possibility of an EU office in Tehran the Ayatollah added: “The people of Iran will not allow another nest of spies to be created in the country, after the closure of the US embassy.”
Criticism of the tyrannical Islamic Republic rulers for their treatment of the Iranian people is nothing new. Since its inception in 1979, this reactionary and theocratic regime has continuously abused basic civil and human rights under the guise of “defending Islamic values”. And no one knows this better than the millions of oppressed Iranians who have lost thousands of loved ones to the firing squads and medieval tortures of the dangerous ruling regime.
However, the significance of the EU resolution and its repercussions go far beyond any adopted by similar bodies or human rights organisations in the past. The directive comes at a crucial time in the life of the Islamic Republic, just as it seeks to bring to an end the nuclear programme negotiations with western powers, and to be freed from the economic sanctions that have almost paralysed Iran’s economic life and caused devastating hardship to its ordinary people.
The Islamic Republic regime was founded on the principle of the Velayate Faghih, or the absolute rule of an Islamic judge, where the guardianship of a nation is given to a single religious leader, who supposedly receives his directions from God, and acts as the absolute arbiter in all aspects of the population’s social, cultural, political and economic affairs.
This principle is expected to lead the Iranian people, who overthrew an authoritarian but secular and modernist monarchy 35 years ago to replace it with a medieval system of governance, to meet the challenges of the 21st century head on.
However, given the reactionary principles of a regime that regards the citizens under its rule as “flock of sheep guided by a shepherd”, any attempt by a foreign government or institute that “dares” attempt to bypass this “divine guardianship” and speak with citizens direct without its “permission” is seen by the regime as a serious challenge to its authority and despotic rule.
Clearly, given that situation, the EU resolution, which makes it compulsory for European governments to include the issue of human rights in all current and future negotiations with the Iranian leadership, – a regime whose very foundations are based on the trampling of such rights – has caused real concern in Tehran’s corridors of power.
On the same day Zarif criticised the EU resolution, Ali Khamenei was delivering a speech to staff at the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, where he denounced the European Parliament and said “even if Iran accepts all the conditions of the world powers on the nuclear issue they will still come up with issues of human rights and support for terrorism”.
He went on: “Right in the middle of the nuclear negotiations they [western countries] suddenly brought up the excuse of human rights. Even if we solve this matter with them they will find another excuse to use against us. So, the best way forward is to ignore their pressures and progress with our own strategies and plans.”
The EU’s resolution is partly based on an assumption by western powers that an opportunity has arisen in Iran under the rule of self-claimed moderate President Rouhani, to mend their long disrupted political and economic relations with Iran.
Since Rouhani himself published his administration’s Charter of Citizens Rights, it is fair to say that, despite his muted criticism of the EU, privately he may well support what his own Charter dictates. However, Iran’s hardliners, led by the despot supreme leader Ali Khamenei, are certainly unhappy with the way nuclear talks are progressing and fear any concessions by the Rouhani administration which, while they might bring stability to Iran’s economy, would also undermine their own domestic grip on power. Iranian democratic forces welcome the EU resolution but strongly believe western powers should not be intimidated by the harsh reactions of Iranian officials ,particularly bh Ali Khamenei.
If the world powers and particularly the US government believe by achieving a deal with Iran over its nuclear programme they can stop the regime from acquiring a nuclear bomb, they also need to take onboard the fact that by empowering the Iranian people in unambiguous support of their human rights they can help them achieve democracy for Iran and peace for the Middle East.
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