Jun 30, 2021

UNPO Calls on European Union to Protect Ahmad Reza Djalali and other EU citizens of Iranian descent

The situation of Ahmad Reza Djalali is reflective of a broader trend of the Islamic Republic of Iran to threaten and take the lives of Iran’s minority communities and EU citizens. Mr. Djalali, a Swedish citizen coming from Iran’s Azerbajani minority, remains in solitary confinement in an Iranian prison, sentenced to death for spurious espionage charges, and in desperate condition. In March 2021 UN Experts raised alarm that he was nearing death in solitary confinement and demanded his urgent release.1 Sadly, this looks all the more unlikely with the rise of Ebrahim Raisi, a member of the 1998 Death Commission, to the Iranian Presidency. Because of the ascendancy of Mr. Raisi, now is an appropriate time to raise awareness of the situation of Mr. Djalali and all of the other minorities threatened by the Islamic Republic of Iran, whether in Iran or in Europe.

In September 2019, the European Parliament issued a resolution calling for the release of all EU citizens by Iran.2 Since that time, it has become abundantly clear that Iran has no compunction about murdering EU citizens, whether located in Iran, or in the EU itself, with Iranian minorities particularly under attack.

For example, in late July 2020, it was reported that an incendiary bomb had been thrown on the porch of Soheila Fors' house. Mrs. Fors is a Kurdish-Swedish political and women rights activist and a member of Sweden's Christian Democrats party. She is also an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She stated during an interview that she received threats from the Iranian regime and that her brother had previously been interrogated by Iranian authorities.

In June 2020, Sadegh Zarza, a member of the Democratic Party Of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) and nephew of the late Dr. Ghasemlou, was stabbed 15 times in broad daylight in the city of Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. He survived the attack. In an interview with the local news outlet, he stated he was certain the attack was at the direction of the Government of Iran. According to De Gelderlander, a local Dutch news website that reported theincident, The PvdA ( the Dutch Labour Party) has previously urged Stef Blok, the Minister of Foreign Affairs to set up a special reporting point for Iranians who feel unsafe. In this regard, the member of parliament Liliane Ploumen stated: ''the minister did not think that was necessary, because people can report the matter to the police. Unfortunately, not everyone does that, so I will again ask what possibilities the minister sees to better protect people.''3

Such actions follow an increasing trend towards attacking Iran’s minorities in Iran. There have been scores of disappearances and arbitrary arrests in 2021 targeting Iran’s minorities. For example, in February, the UNPO and 35 civil society and human rights organizations called for the urgent attention of the international community to an ongoing wave of arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detention, and enforced disappearances by the Iranian authorities, targeting scores of people from Iran’s disadvantaged Kurdish minority in the provinces of Alborz, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Tehran, and West Azerbaijan.4

In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran told the UN human rights council of his alarm at the increased targeting of minorities. He stated:

I am alarmed at the targeting of minorities, including through executions, enforced disappearances and arbitrary sentencing of individuals from the Baluch, Kurdish and Ahwazi Arab minorities. The arrest of over 100 Kurdish individuals, many involved in peaceful activism, is of great concern. I am alarmed at the killing on 22 February of at least ten Baluch individuals by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the internet shutdown imposed across Sistan-and-Baluchistan province to limit access to information about the event. I am also disturbed at the harassment, arbitrary arrests and imprisonments of religious minorities, particularly members of the Baha'i faith who have experienced a new wave of house raids and land confiscations in recent months. I also outline in this report the wide-spread discrimination against sexual minorities in Iran, including hate speech from public officials and most disturbingly the application of the death penalty for consensual same-sex relations. I am troubled that so-called "reparative" therapies are imposed on members of the LGBT community, especially reports of administration of electric shocks, hormones and strong psychoactive medications for children experiencing gender nonconformity and same-sex attraction. I urge the authorities to eliminate all forms of discrimination against all minorities and to ensure the equal rights, respect and dignity of all individuals.5

The UNPO is calling on the international community to act urgently to protect Iran’s minorities wherever located. We are asking the European Parliament to adopt the following points in any resolutions or acts passed related to Iran:

  • Call for the immediate release of Ahmad Reza Djalali and all EU citizens held arbitrarily by the Islamic Republic of Iran;
  • Publicly state that the Islamic Republic of Iran constitutes a threat to the EU’s internal security because of its targeting of EU citizens, including within the borders of the EU.
  • Instruct the European Commission to initiate a comprehensive review of the extent to which EU rules related to internal security, migration and asylum, and criminal Justice are being best implemented and used by EU member states in order to appropriately protect Iranian diaspora communities within the EU.
  • Instruct the European Parliament’s Research Service to initiate a Cost of Non-EU report to assess whether further legislative action is needed by the EU in order to better protect EU citizens subject to reprisals and attacks by third-countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, within the borders of the EU.

1see https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26911&LangID=E


3 See UNPO report, Compromised Space: Foreign State Reprisals against Unrepresented Diplomats in Europe, pages 26-27 (available at https://unpo.org/downloads/2696.pdf)


5see https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26869&LangID=E


Photo: Wikimedia Commons