Wednesday, May 22, 2024
 
 

Europe’s lawmakers see opportunity for regime change a year after Iran’s latest uprising

- Advertisement -

On September 21, representatives of various political groups held a meeting in the European Parliament to discuss the situation in Iran one year after Mahsa Amini’s death. Participating EU parliamentarians were joined in a panel discussion by international human rights lawyer Azadeh Zabeti and Gerard Vespierre, founding partner of Strategic Councils and associate researcher at the Middle East Study Foundation. Zabeti also delivered the event’s keynote address, highlighting recommended changes in Western policy toward the Islamic Republic in the wake of the nationwide uprising sparked by Amini’s death.

The 22-year-old Kurdish woman was apprehended by “morality police” on September 13, 2022, after they decided that her mandatory hijab was being worn too loosely. Multiple witnesses to the arrest reported that she was beaten at the point of her arrest and in the police vehicle that transported her to a reeducation center, where she fell unconscious. After lying in a coma for three days, Amini died in hospital.

Public outrage over this incident led to a nationwide uprising with chants of “death to the dictator” and demands for an end to the theocratic system that was established in the wake of the 1979 revolution. Zabeti’s speech emphasized awareness of these broad political aims and expressed confidence that the regime change sought by the Iranian people would lead directly to establishing a democratic republic.

Other participants in the meeting echoed this sentiment, with some calling attention to a specific “ten-point plan” outlined by Maryam Rajavi. Shehas been designated by the National Council of Resistance of Iran to serve as transitional president following the current regime’s overthrow.

MEP Dorien Rookmaker warned Western policymakers against being deceived by Tehran’s propaganda and disinformation regarding the supposed absence of a viable alternative to the theocratic dictatorship. She insisted that the NCRI is just such an alternative and thus urged her colleagues to carefully consider the impact that future policies might have on that coalition of opposition groups, and thus upon the people of Iran.

Radka Maxova, a European Parliamentarian from the Czech Republic, also appealed for a change in Western policies, noting that prior reactions to the regime’s crackdowns on dissent have been mostly limited to inadequate verbal condemnation and largely symbolic sanctions. Collectively, the US, European Union, Britain, and Canada have imposed dozens of new sanctions on Iranian officials and entities since last year’s uprising began, have resisted various recommendations from the likes of the NCRI, including severance of diplomatic relations and designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

These recommendations were reiterated in the September 21 meeting, which also recalled attention to recent and historical human rights abuses by the Iranian regime, which arguably make its leading officials viable targets of prosecution for crimes against humanity. Polish European Parliamentarian Anna Fotyga underscored the fact that Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has been credibly implicated in the massacre of political prisoners, which took place in the summer of 1988 and is believed to have claimed upwards of 30,000 victims, the majority of them belonging to the main Iranian opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or MEK. Earlier in the week, this legacy was similarly highlighted by thousands of Iranian expatriates in New York, who staged protests over Raisi’s presence at the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The September 21 meeting echoed the condemnation of Raisi’s embrace by the international community, suggesting that it was indicative of Western tendencies toward “appeasement” of the Iranian regime. As other examples of this tendency, Zabeti highlighted the September 18 implementation of a prisoner swap between Iran and the US which saw the release of six billion dollars in frozen Iranian assets from South Korea, as well as the release from prison, earlier this year, of Iranian diplomat-cum-terrorist Assadollah Assadi in exchange for a Belgian aid worker.

Assadi had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role as mastermind of a plot to set off explosives at a 2018 gathering near Paris, which had been organized by the NCRI, and was attended by hundreds of lawmakers and foreign policy experts. Though the plot was thwarted by European law enforcement, it highlighted the serious threat that Iran poses to global security, and participants in the meeting used it to argue that Western concessions to the Iranian regime could further exacerbate that threat.

Nevertheless, the primary concern for most participants appeared to be the safety of the Iranian people and the prospect of them securing a free, democratic future for their country. In a video message to the conference, MEP Javier Zarzalejos expressed confidence in this outcome, but said strict diplomatic measures by Western governments would be needed to help the Iranian people achieve it with a minimum of additional bloodshed.

In less than three months following Amini’s death, Iranian officials killed at least 750 protesters and arrested 30,000 others, according to a network affiliated with the MEK. Seven arrestees have been executed and is believed that dozens of other death sentences are pending. There have also been numerous distressing accounts of torture and sexual violence, some of which were recounted in Zabeti’s speech.

She and other speakers expressed outrage at the “impunity” that Iranian authorities have enjoyed in the wake of such abuses but credited the Iranian people with demonstrating tremendous resilience, as underscored by resurgent protests in many localities on the anniversary of Amini’s death. Vespierre went so far as to say that a new Iranian revolution is essentially inevitable, echoing the findings of his recent study, “Iran: Towards a Second Revolution?

Although the September 21 conference pointed to diplomatic and economic measures that might help the Iranian people arrive at that outcome, most participants also expressed a belief that the international community could have a significant impact just by formally recognizing the Iranian people’s right to defend themselves against suppressive forces and to agitate for a change of government and by proscribing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group.

- Advertisement -

Subscribe to our newsletter

Latest

U.S.-Kazakhstan dialogue on human rights and democratic reforms continues

The United States and Kazakhstan convened the third annual...

Tackling new threats to critical energy infrastructure

The explosions that targeted the Nord Stream pipelines from...

Georgia’s “Foreign Representatives Law” moves forward amid protests

On May 14, Georgia’s parliament approved (84/150) a hotly...

North Macedonia: Sliding back towards the political dark side?

As most analysts predicted after the strong showing of...

Don't miss

U.S.-Kazakhstan dialogue on human rights and democratic reforms continues

The United States and Kazakhstan convened the third annual...

Tackling new threats to critical energy infrastructure

The explosions that targeted the Nord Stream pipelines from...

Georgia’s “Foreign Representatives Law” moves forward amid protests

On May 14, Georgia’s parliament approved (84/150) a hotly...

North Macedonia: Sliding back towards the political dark side?

As most analysts predicted after the strong showing of...

A Green 5+1, regional water issues in Central Asia and previewing next year’s Astana International Forum

Kazakhstan’s Astana International Forum (AIF) has been postponed to 2025, as Astana...

U.S.-Kazakhstan dialogue on human rights and democratic reforms continues

The United States and Kazakhstan convened the third annual U.S.-Kazakhstan High-Level Dialogue on Human Rights and Democratic Reforms on May 20 in Astana, focusing...

Tackling new threats to critical energy infrastructure

The explosions that targeted the Nord Stream pipelines from Russia to Germany in September 2022 and the suspected sabotage of Baltic-connector pipeline, which supplies...

Georgia’s “Foreign Representatives Law” moves forward amid protests

On May 14, Georgia’s parliament approved (84/150) a hotly contested law on “Transparency of Foreign Interests” regulating the amount of aid local civil society...

North Macedonia: Sliding back towards the political dark side?

As most analysts predicted after the strong showing of the nationalist presidential candidate in the first-round presidential elections on April 24, VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian...

New sanctions ordered following Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attacks against Israel

Following Iran’s massive, but ineffective, missile and drone strikes against Israel April 13, the United States and the United Kingdom announced their new sanctions...

Kazakhstan: New law to protect women and children against domestic violence

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has recently signed key legislation largely criminalizing domestic abuse, ensuring women’s rights and safety of children which has been hailed...

G7 Italy 2024 Foreign Ministers’ Statement on Addressing Global Challenges, Fostering Partnerships

The text of the following statement was released by the G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the...

The empty seat in Strasbourg

 When the newly elected European Parliament convenes this year on July 16 there will be an empty seat in the plenary hall within the...