Saturday, 25 June 2016
The rate of hangings has increased in recent years with the arrival to power of the so-called "moderate" president, Hassan Rouhani. File Photo by Vatican Pool
Last week, together with 270 other colleagues in the European Parliament, I signed a statement condemning the ongoing, rampant human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We have called on EU and Western governments "to condition any further relations with Iran to a clear progress on human rights and a halt to executions."
Iran is today the world leader in number of executions per capita. It has also been declared by the U.S. State Department as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.
The rate of hangings has increased in recent years with the arrival to power of the so-called "moderate" president, Hassan Rouhani. Nearly 1,000 people were put to death in 2015 alone, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Ahmad Shaheed, who declared it as the highest number of executions in Iran in 27 years.
In the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, morality police and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have intensified their efforts to root out and punish various forms of deviance from the country's repressive religious laws, including the forced veiling of women and the criminalization of labour unions and other forms of peaceful gathering. Meanwhile, the Iranian regime's unwavering support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has made Iran part of the problem rather than a solution to the Syrian war.
Iran's fingerprints are also deepening in Iraq, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias have recently been accused again by international rights organizations of systematic torturing and killing of the Sunni population in the battle to take over Fallujah. This will further alienate the Sunnis and drive them toward extremist groups such as the Islamic State.
And as if to illustrate the danger of being caught as a bystander in the middle of Tehran's contest for dominance of the region, Iraq is also the site of a community of exiled Iranian dissidents, who have been stranded since 2012 in the former U.S. military base of Camp Liberty. Described by the UN as a "detention center," the camp has been the target of attacks utilizing Iranian-made rockets, as well as an ongoing blockade of medical supplies and other lifesaving provisions.
When the defenseless camp residents who belong to the main Iranian opposition PMOI were forcibly relocated to Camp Liberty from Camp Ashraf under a deal overseen by the UN and United States, it was done with the promise that they would soon be relocated to stable homes, presumably in Europe and North America. Four years and dozens of deaths later, no nations other than Albania have made a significant effort to relocate those people.
At the same time, following the nuclear agreement that has provided the Islamic Republic with extensive sanctions relief, several EU countries have both sent and received political and trade delegations and have actively pursued investment in Iran without any precondition.
As it has been admitted by the U.S. president and other Western officials, and given the dominance of the IRGC over the Iranian economy, there's little doubt that most of the money, instead of being used for the well-being of Iranian people and the development of the country, is funneled directly to support terrorist groups in the region.
On July 9, together with other many other parliamentarians and political figures from around the world, I will attend a rally organized by the Iranian democratic opposition led by Maryam Rajavi. In doing so, we will strive to reassure the Iranian people that not everyone in the West has forgotten their righteous struggle for freedom and democracy.
Iran's human rights record is of global significance and it is very much the responsibility of Western nations to address that issue.
In fact, our essential values as Europeans ought to be reason enough for us to demand that Iran improve its domestic human rights as a price for any expansion in trade relations. But as foreign investment gives Iran the opportunity to reach its hand further across the region, it should be clear to us that the stakes are much higher than we might have once imagined. And if we refuse to respond to this situation, we will bear responsibility for the loss of innocent lives not only in Iran but also in Syria, Iraq and other places in the region where Iranian proxy fighters seek dominance.
i:José Inácio Faria, a Portuguese member of the European Parliament, is member of Friends of a Free Iran group in the European Parliament.