The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, strongly condemned the Iranian regime’s decision on October 26 to sanction several MEPs, as well as journalists, human rights defenders and institutions.
“Women have the right to protest. Women’s lives and women’s liberties are inviolable,” she declared in reference to issues that have been a major focus of protests encompassing the Islamic Republic for the past six weeks.
“The European Parliament will not stop fighting for these fundamental values. We will not stop standing up for freedom, dignity and equality. We will not be silenced.”
“We stand with the European Parliament’s ‘Friends of Iran’ group and all those sanctioned,” Metsola added.
The European Parliament’s “Friends of Free Iran” intergroup includes MEPs from all political groups and has been active for almost two decades in support of human rights and democracy in Iran. It has invited Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) to address large gatherings of MEPs on several occasions, most recently October 10.
Members of the Friends of Free Iran and all 12 individuals named in the new Iranian sanction order are known supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Another group on Iran’s sanctions list, the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ), is committed to promoting EU policies that are aligned with the interests of the Iranian people and their aspirations for freedom and democracy. It also pursues legal accountability for the regime’s senior officials, particularly perpetrators of the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners, which primarily targeted the country’s leading pro-democracy opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or the MEK and claimed about 30,000 lives overall.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on October 26 announcing new sanctions on eight institutions and 12 individuals in Europe, in recognition of their apparent support for popular protests that have been ongoing in the Islamic Republic for six weeks since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of the “morality police.”
There is evidence to show that hundreds of protesters have been killed since unrest began in the wake of Ms. Amini’s murder, while thousands have been injured and at least 20,000 arrested. Video clips continue to leak out of the Islamic Republic depicting repressive forces opening fire on crowds of protesters and savagely beating people at the point of arrest. The MEK has determined that the death toll among protesters stands at above 400.
Nationwide network of “Resistance Units”, affiliated to the MEK has played a major role in the protests and in helping to maintain their focus on a message of regime change. Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI explained the other day that the network of Resistance Units began earnestly taking shape in 2014 and that evidence pointed to a fivefold increase in its membership just between 2021 and 2022.
Such indicators are no doubt alarming for Iranian officials, especially in light of the fact that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered a speech in January 2018 which acknowledged that the PMOI had “planned for months” to bring about a then-ongoing anti-government uprising. The current uprising shares key features with that initial movement, including frequent chants of “death to the dictator”, and there is growing speculation that the recurring challenges to the theocratic system could set the stage for regime change.
This possibility was highlighted by several European political figures in response to Tehran’s sanctions announcement. Swedish MEP Charlie Weimers declared on Twitter, “I look forward to visiting a secular and democratic #Iran one day.” Another target of the new sanctions, Czech MEP Jan Zahardil offered a similar response to the news that he would not be allowed by the current regime to travel to Iran: “Fair enough I will only go there once the Ayatollahs regime falls.”
Still other figures from Iran’s sanctions list expressed pride at being singled out by the regime; as its political adversaries. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, former vice president of the European Parliament and current ISJ president from Spain, said, “It is an honor to be on that list.” And Hermann Tertsch, an MEP from Spain, said on behalf of his colleagues from the Friends of Free Iran, “We consider the regime’s sanctions and threats as a medal of honor given to us by the Iranian women killed by that rascal regime.”