Umayya Center for Research & Strategic Studies in collaboration with the Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE)
MINORITY RIGHTS IN IRANIAN SOCIETY
Human Rights Abuse & EU Reaction
Saturday 17th- Sunday 18th October 2015, Istanbul, Turkey
When I was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq I was informed that the Foreign Affairs Committee had invited the Iranian Foreign Minister to come to Brussels to make a speech. It was June 2010 and the Iranian Foreign Minister at that time was the infamous Manouchehr Mottaki, a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a listed terrorist organisation. He had been appointed to that post by Ahmadinejad, despite the fact that he had previously been expelled from Turkey when he was Iran’s Ambassador, following the discovery of a prisoner trussed and gagged in the trunk of an Iranian Embassy car trying to cross the border from Turkey to Iran. Alert Turkish Border Guards heard thumping in the car trunk and demanded it should be opened. When the prisoner was released he said he was one of several Mojahedin e Khalq (MEK) dissidents who had been kidnapped from the streets of towns and cities in Turkey, then held in a dungeon beneath the Iranian Embassy in Ankara, where they were severely tortured before being sent back to Iran for execution.
I was outraged that this murderer had been invited to address a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, so I organised a little welcoming party for him. When he arrived outside the committee room on 1st June 2010, I stood with a group of MEPs holding placards showing photographs of Neda Agha Soltan, the young student killed in the 2009 demonstrations against the fraudulent re-election of Ahmadinejad. Mottaki and a large entourage of henchmen and bodyguards came down the corridor, pursued by a huge phalanx of camera crews and photographers. He momentarily paused when he saw the placards and I stepped forward and shouted in his face: “You are a murderer and you are not welcome in the European Parliament.” Other MEPs joined in the shouts and catcalls and Mottaki’s bodyguards immediately started to scuffle with us, trying to manhandle us out of the way, shouting “Don’t touch” to anyone who got too close to their boss. I yelled “Get your hands off me! Do not dare to lay your hands on an elected Member of this House. This is not Iran. We do not tolerate thugs here!” All of this was caught on film, much to the embarrassment of Mottaki.
I tell you this story to illustrate two things. Firstly how being a murderer and member of the terrorist IRGC accelerates your rise to high office in Iran and secondly, how not all Members of the European Parliament are prepared to follow the policy of appeasement of the Iranian regime, an appeasement policy that the President of the European Parliament – Martin Schulz – intended to follow last weekend by visiting Iran, although he postponed the trip after 115 MEPs, together with 18 political prisoners in Iran, signed a joint letter of protest.
Iran is a deeply corrupt country. Its fascist leadership thrives on oppression. Its main export is terror. Iran has many ethnic minorities - Azeris, Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis, among others. Also there are many religious minorities: The Sunnis live in many parts of Iran and are believed to number over 10 million. There also Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Baha'is. Until the arrival of Khomenei, these communities had been living peacefully and fraternally together in Iran for centuries. There are representatives of these ethnic and religious minorities in the opposition NCRI, fighting together for a free Iran.
But these minorities are victims of constant persecution. They face arbitrary detention, torture, unfair trials and extrajudicial executions, as well as the destruction of their cemeteries and holy places. These persecutions not only target the Baha’is, a religious minority not recognized by the Iranian Constitution, but also target Christians, Jews and even Sunni Muslims, Sufis and other branches of Islam.
Many Sunnis live in the capital Tehran, which has a population of 15 million in the city and its suburbs. But the regime has not permitted even one Sunni mosque to be built in Tehran; indeed a small Sunni prayer house was recently demolished by the Revolutionary Guards. This is done while according to Islam, demolishing a mosque is a sin, but for this regime, religion is just a tool for repression and not a belief. I am not an Islamic scholar but with a simple glance to the primary Islamic teachings, one can see that many actions of this regime are in stark conflict with the teachings of Islam.
Women are treated as an inferior species and regularly abused and repressed by the misogynist mullahs. Many young women have been blinded and disfigured in acid attacks condoned by the State simply for the offence of not wearing their veil properly. Unfortunately the West and particularly the EU have closed their eyes to these crimes.
But I should point out that the Iranian regime has a major difference with other multi-national, multi-religion countries, which is that in Iran, if any one expresses any opposition to the regime, whatever religion he or she may have, they will be brutally repressed.
One of their biggest targets for arrest, imprisonment, torture and execution is the PMOI or MEK. Over 30,000 of them were summarily executed on the direct orders of Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s in a pogrom of such ferocity that it shook Iran. Nevertheless, it caused barely a stir of criticism in the West. Today, supporters of the PMOI face a mandatory death sentence under the Iranian Constitution for ‘Waging War Against God!’ It is interesting to note that this organization is not Christian or Sunni, or Kurd or Arab. It is a political movement, which is really a sample of all the religions and nationalities of Iran, although the majority of the 30,000 murdered by Khomenei’s fatwa were in fact Persian Shi’ia.
Two thousand five hundred PMOI men and women are now marooned in Camp Liberty, a death camp near Baghdad. They have been attacked six times by the Iraqi military on the orders of the mullahs in Tehran, leading to 117 deaths, over a thousand injuries and 7 people kidnapped, 6 of who are women, who’ve not been seen for more than two years.
Despite the fact that all of these unarmed civilian PMOI dissidents are registered refugees under the apparent supervision and protection of the UN, no-one in the UN, US or EU has lifted a finger to help them; no-one has demanded an inquiry into the massacres that they were subjected to; no-one has offered them asylum. Indeed the only country that has helped has been Albania, not even an EU Member state. The big-hearted Albanians have really exposed the shameful cowardice of the US and EU who are afraid to offer a word of rebuke in case it insults the religious fascists in Tehran.
It is through repression, violence and terror that the Iranian regime responds to peaceful calls to put an end to attacks on minority rights. It seems remarkable that throughout all of the nuclear negotiations in Switzerland, no mention was made of Iran’s appalling human rights record, where it now executes more people than any other country in the world apart from China. More than 2000 people have been hanged under the so-called ‘moderate’ leadership of President Rouhani, many of them were Sunnis.
It seems all that he has to do is smile and the West is fooled. But while he smiles, waves of mass judicial killings are ruthlessly carried out, designed to create an atmosphere of fear in a population increasingly dismayed at rising food and fuel costs, while their fundamentalist rulers pour billions into brutal foreign wars. There have been repeated bread riots and mass demonstrations by schoolteachers and others, which have caused panic amongst the ruling mullahs, leading to further savage crackdowns. But none of this seems to attract any criticism from the West.
With our attention distracted by the on-going economic crisis in Greece, and the refugee crisis that has seen tens of thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean every week, the eyes of the world were diverted from the nuclear deal with Iran. Determined to secure his footnote in history, Obama swept aside all warnings and fears and signed an agreement that effectively ends sanctions on the Iranian regime and releases over $150 billion of assets that were previously frozen. The West gets virtually nothing but empty promises in return. The people of Iran will not benefit from this deal and I have no doubt that the minorities will be the losers because the regime will have a free hand to repress them.
This is a windfall for a regime whose biggest export is terror; a regime which funds Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Bashir al-Assad in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the brutal Shi’ite militias in Iraq. It is a windfall for the mullahs’ nuclear programme, which far from being suspended, will now be accelerated and it is a windfall for Iran’s expanding ballistic missile programme, which has intercontinental missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and striking targets in Israel, Saudi Arabia or even Europe. But Obama’s footnote in the history books may not make for comfortable reading.
The impact of sanctions on Iran, coupled with the recent collapse in oil revenues, has crippled the theocratic regime. Welfare handouts are being savagely cut, food prices continue to rise; the black market is burgeoning. While the top leaders live a life of luxury, anger is building amongst the poor. Increased repression, mass arrests, public hangings and floggings have been the regime’s response, because what they fear more than anything is popular fury spilling over into a new revolution, sweeping the fascist ayatollahs and their henchmen from power.
By signing the agreement with Iran, I believe we have missed a unique opportunity to topple a rogue government and restore peace and stability to the region. Ending sanctions and the subsequent release of assets will revitalize the Iranian economy and ensure the regime’s survival.
As the number one state sponsor of terrorism Iran has already begun to pour money into new military capability in anticipation of the ending of sanctions; they are investing vast resources in the terrorist Quds Force and the murderous Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which spread their brand of theocratic fascism across the zone and in countries around the world. The Iranian regime wishes to become the dominant force in the Middle East and they will grasp this opportunity to achieve that goal.
We must wake up the fact that the agreement signed in Vienna is not worth the paper it is printed on. It is ludicrous to believe that Iran can be trusted on this issue when they have repeatedly duped the West over their nuclear intentions for the past 12 years. The IRGC’s most senior commander - General Qasem Suleimani is leading the brutal Iranian armed and funded Shi’ia militias in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, waging a genocidal campaign against the Iraqi Sunni population in the process. The IRGC and Suleimani are listed terrorists in the US and have American blood on their hands. Yet Obama and the West seem reconciled to the idea that Suleimani is an ally in the battle against ISIS. They have even agreed to lift a visa ban on Suleimani as part of the nuclear deal, so that this leading terrorist mastermind will be able to travel freely to the West. To believe that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” in this context is a grave mistake. Suleimani is an avowed enemy of the United States and will be overjoyed at the ending of sanctions and the ending of the freeze on the IRGC’s international assets.
The nuclear agreement signed by the P5 + 1 nations is a major setback and an historic mistake. A resurgent Iran will now attempt to extend its evil dominion across the Middle East. Having effectively aided and abetted this calamity, the West has now virtually excluded itself from any future solution to the unfolding crisis. Indeed the expanding programme of support for Bashir al-Assad’s bloody civil war, backed by Iran, Iraq and Russia, lies at the root of the refugee crisis that is engulfing the EU. We must now look to the Arab coalition created by Saudi Arabia as a counter-balance to aggressive Iranian expansionism. They have mounted a credible campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and could be encouraged to become more involved in Syria and Iraq with the objective of neutralising Iranian interference in both.
Whoever takes up the challenge of countering Iran should be certain of one thing; there is a credible Opposition movement waiting in the wings to take over power from the evil mullahs.
The PMOI and their inspirational leader Mrs Maryam Rajavi are ready to restore democracy, justice, human rights and women’s rights in Iran.
This resistance movement has adopted plans for equal rights for different religions and ethnic minorities. For example they emphasize that the government cannot deprive the rights of anyone for their beliefs or non-beliefs in a religion, nor can they grant special advantages to them. According to the NCRI, an Iranian lady, who may be Kurd or Arab or Sunni, can be elected as the President. The NCRI plan for the autonomy of Iranian Kurdistan, according to many Kurds, is very progressive. These are the plans which have been adopted by the NCRI and have to be implemented in a future free Iran as far as the NCRI are concerned.
They will ban nuclear weapons, end the death penalty and separate church and state. Theirs is a vision of freedom and liberty for the oppressed millions in Iran. It is a vision that they have fought and died for. President Obama, Martin Schulz and Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy should be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian opposition and the beleaguered Iranian people who want an end to the theocratic fascist regime that has tortured, executed and oppressed them for the past thirty-six years under their perverted version of Islam. Instead of that they have been rubbing shoulders with the smiling murderer Rouhani.
They should remember the words of Winston Churchill who famously said of appeasement: "There is no greater mistake than to suppose that platitudes, smooth words, and timid policies offer a path to safety."
Struan Stevenson was a Conservative MEP representing Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 until his retirement in 2014. He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).
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