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This month’s Ranter is Struan Stevenson
The visit of Federica Mogherini – Europe’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs – to Iran on 5th August stunned the world. She had gone to Tehran for the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani as he began his second consecutive term in office. Rouhani has been hailed in the West as a moderate and a reformist. This is despite the fact that more than 3,500 people, including 80 women, have been executed during the four years he has been in office, catapulting Iran into pole position as the world’s number one state executioner per capita. 700 people have been executed so far this year, including women and teenagers.
Three days before Mogherini arrived in Tehran, Amnesty International published a 94-page report highlighting the ‘web of oppression’ that pervades Iran, detailing the catastrophic human rights situation in the country. Most international leaders boycotted Rouhani’s inauguration, but this did not deter Mogherini, whose constant refrain of ‘constructive dialogue’ with the mullah’s barbaric regime has begun to sound hollow and ridiculous.
Mogherini’s presence at the ceremony delivered a massive PR scoop for Tehran’s turbaned tyrants. They flocked around her in the parliament building, desperate to take selfies with the EU’s top diplomat who had obligingly worn a headscarf for the occasion. Mogherini sadly appears to have forgotten that the Iranian regime treats women as second-class citizens. In Iran’s medieval justice system women are denied basic civil rights. A woman’s testimony in court is worth only half that of a man. Men can unilaterally divorce their wives. Girls as young as eight can be held to be criminally responsible; they can be legally married at the age of nine. Women can be stoned to death for adultery. Under Iranian law, women must wear the hijab, covering all but their face, hands and feet. They can be lashed for breaking these laws.
The religious police regularly arrest women for revealing too much hair beneath their veils. Indeed a recent spate of horrific acid attacks on women that were deemed to be improperly dressed has been condoned by the Iranian authorities. Women are banned from attending sporting events and even from riding bicycles.
Many thousands of women are in prison, guilty of nothing more than opposing the oppressive mullah’s regime or attempting to uphold human rights. Even women of dual-nationality like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the 38 year-old English charity worker and mother of a three year-old daughter, was sentenced to five years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Here she remains, on trumped up and ludicrous espionage charges following a mock 45 minute trial. Her British husband says she is suffering from mental health problems and a string of physical ailments since her arrest in April last year. Picked up in Tehran Airport, she was attempting to fly home following a visit to her elderly parents. In the cruel prisons, young women are often singled out for torture and execution. The brutal prison guards rape them before they are hanged, in a twisted attempt to stop them going to heaven.
This is the reality of life inside the Islamic Republic; a country that has been condemned internationally for supporting Bashar al-Assad’s bloody civil war in Syria, training, and financing the brutal Shi’ia militias rampaging through Iraq, sponsoring the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and exporting war and terror throughout the Middle East. The barbarity of the regime has been recognised by President Trump who has now agreed to blacklist Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary guards Corps, the main sponsors of Iranian terror. But none of this appears to have resonated with Mrs Mogherini, who still naïvely thinks that the EU can do business with a regime that has more in common with the Nazis than any other nation on earth today.
Evidence of this can be seen in the ongoing revelations concerning the appalling massacre of political prisoners that took place in 1988. The mass executions, in jails across Iran, were carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader, the psychotic and murderous Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomenei appointed a ‘Death Commission’ to supervise the massacre. The ‘Death Commission’ included Ebrahim Raisi, who stood against Rouhani in this year’s presidential elections and is apparently being groomed by Khamenei to succeed him as a future Supreme Leader.
The commission also included Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who until earlier last month was Rouhani’s Justice Minister. As the scandal of the 1988 massacre deepened, Rouhani removed Pour-Mohammadi from this role and brazenly replaced him with another notorious murderer Alireza Avaie. Avaie served as public prosecutor in 1988 in the city of Dezful in Iran’s Khuzestan Province. Based on eyewitness reports provided by various former prisoners, Avaie ordered juvenile detainees under the age of 18, including girls, to be executed in groups of two or three. The executions were carried out in an empty field near the prison.
The majority of political prisoners who were massacred were supporters of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI). Kangaroo courts were set up in Tehran and in cities across the country. PMOI political prisoners were hauled in front of Sharia judges who demanded to know if they supported the Monafeqin – the regime’s derisory term for the PMOI. Those who defiantly said yes were sentenced to immediate execution. These sham trials took on average less than 2 minutes. It was estimated that 30,000 political prisoners were hanged from cranes in batches of ten, every fifteen minutes from dawn to dusk between August and December 1988, in an atrocity that must surely rank as one of the most horrific crimes against humanity of the late twentieth century. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights must now set up an inquiry to investigate this massacre with a view to ending impunity and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
President Trump has long recognized the Iranian regime as the Godfather of terror. It is time the UK government and the EU did likewise. Federica Mogherini’s attendance at Rouhani’s inauguration this month has provided sufficient grounds for her dismissal as the EU’s High Representative of Foreign Affairs. She is clearly unfit to continue in that role. Instead of appeasing the corrupt and murderous dictators in Tehran, the EU should be demanding a full United Nations inquiry into the 1988 massacre, with Khamenei, Rouhani and their claque of killer clerics indicted for crimes against humanity and brought for trial before the international courts in The Hague.
Struan Stevenson is President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14), and Chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East.