Mahsa Amini was not a dissident nor a protester, just a 22-year-old girl on a day trip to Tehran with her brother. She was not bare-headed, but the way she wore her hijab enraged a passing morality policeman. Mahsa’s supposed death from a collapsed heart condition, despite her family insisting that she was healthy, has gripped the country. Because Mahsa could be your sister, your cousin off to college or even yourself.
The bravest women in the world are cutting their hair and burning their hijabs in solidarity with Mahsa. Men are also joining them, getting beaten or shot by armed security forces. In the 11 days of unrest, at least 76 protesters have been killed by Iranian security forces, the real number is likely much higher. The authorities have also shut down the internet, in the hopes of quelling the mass protests which represent the regime’s biggest challenge in years.
Justin Trudeau announced last week that Canada will levy sanctions on dozens of Iranian individuals and entities, including the country’s so-called “morality police”. Germany’s foreign ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador last Monday. Josep Borell, the EU’s foreign policy chief condemned Iran and has said that all options are on the table at the next meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers.
Yet the Biden administration appears to view the hijab protests, now in their 11th day as an opportunity to revive the nuclear deal. Instead of getting a deal, it’s time for the US, Britain, France and Germany who will all sign any potential document to stand up for their values. The US’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a interview recently that the US was on the “side” of “fundamental justice, dignity, and rights”. What better time to make the case of standing with the people of Iran than during a pivotal moment of social unrest?
Yet the Biden administration appears more concerned with having a legacy, similar to Obama’s. Biden should be treating Iran like Russia, after all, Iran is now ramping up its aggressive military activities there. The first reports that Iran had offered to provide Russia with military-grade drones to support its military efforts in Ukraine were in July, right after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tehran, where he met with the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Today, Moscow is using its Iranian drones, painted to hide their origins against Ukrainian cities. This is the first time Iranian military equipment has been deployed on European soil.
Negotiating with Iran whilst they are deploying sophisticated military drones on European soil and repressing anti-regime sentiment in Iran, whilst claiming to stand with the people of Iran is shambolic. The people of Iran are suffering under Khamenei and the countless economic crises whilst the regime’s leaders have millions of dollars in wealth, despite years of economic sanctions. The EU is known for having the best legislation for women and girls in the world, guaranteeing equal pay, maternity leave and workplaces safe from harassment. The EU leaders need to hold Iran accountable over human rights abuses and use the current protests to put pressure on the Iranian authorities, rather than entering another nuclear deal.
Statements and condemnations from EU leaders are not enough for the people of Iran. A show of real solidarity with the people of Iran would be standing up to the regime’s leadership. Winston Churchill once said that “an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last”. Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism with an abysmal human rights record has been preying on the US and Europe for far too long. European leaders need to stand up to Iran, there should be no reason for the EU to continue to appease such a regime. EU leaders must hold themselves accountable and stand up for their own values.
[Photo by Darafsh, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
Tom Gomez is a freelance political analyst based in London. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.