On the eve of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarifs visit to the European Parliament, MEP Bastiaan Belder (ECR) in partnership with the AJC Transatlanic Institute, convened a timely conference that dealt with the grave human rights situation in Iran. The speakers highlighted the Iranian regimes dangerous influence in the region and its flagrant disregard for fundamental rights, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Belder welcomed all participants, especially HE Ambassador of Bahrain, Dr. Bahiya Jawad Aljishi, and the Israeli, Moroccan and Canadian embassies. Belder highlighted that the strong interest in the counter-event to Zarifs visit, was important to stress the dangerous path of the EUs engagement with Iran. "The EU turns a blind eye to domestic Iranian repression and foreign aggression. It runs counter to the EUs political values and geopolitical interests in the Middle East. For how much longer will Mogherini continue this erroneous EU policy?", asked Belder.
The audience of numerous MEPs, ambassadors, advisors and representatives of civil society, witnessed courageous testimonies of exiled Iranian dissidents Saba Farzan, German-Iranian journalist, Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah, journalist at Radio Free Europe and Rachel Bayani, the Brussels representative of the Bahai community. Their chilling remarks put into question the European partnership with a regime that not only denies its citizens basic freedoms, but also wreaks havoc in the region, including with its terror-proxy Hezbollah.
Saba Farzan, recalled the regimes brutal suppression of the 2009 democracy movement. What is more, the rate of executions rose steeply since Rohani took office, contradicting the commonly held misconception that the current government is reformist. "I am all for engagement with Iran, but the right kind of Iran: its civil society, its young generation - its future. They should have been invited here instead of the representatives of an abusive dictatorship," Farzan said.
Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah expressed severe doubts that Iran will ever alter its anti-democratic policies. Making his point abundantly clear, Mr. Yazdanapanah said that it is more likely that ISIS will become secular than the Iranian regime respecting human rights. Rachel Bayani discussed the plight of the Iranian Bahai community, which has for decades been victimized by the regime.
Finally, Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, urged the Members of the European Parliament to carefully examine the trustworthiness and democratic merits of the Iranian regime. By any assessment, the Rohani government at the very least has behaved just as deceptively as previous so-called reformers. The abysmal human rights record speaks for itself. "There is a fine line between appeasement and engagement," Schwammenthal said in view of the EUs recent rapprochement vis-à-vis Teheran. "Only an evidence-based foreign policy and not wishful thinking will lead to stability in the region and do justice to the regimes many victims", Schwammenthal added.