Ahwazi: European Parliament Condemns Iran's Persecution of Arabs
The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) joined forces with Paulo Casaca, a Member of the European Parliament representing Portugal's ruling Socialist Party, to persuade the European Parliament to condemn the treatment of Ahwazis and other Iranian ethnic minorities.
The resolution was approved by a cross-party consensus, backed by the centre-right European People's Party and European Democrats, centre-left Party of European Socialists, centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, the Greens and the left-wing European United Left. It stated that the European Parliament "condemns the treatment of minorities such as ... the inhabitants of the area around Ahwaz city, the provincial capital of the ethnic Arab dominated Khuzestan province, who are being displaced from their villages according to statements by Miloon Kothari, UN Rapporteur on Adequate Housing." Thousands of Ahwazi Arabs are being forced from their homes in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Khuzestan, while those who have taken to the streets in protest have been shot at by the security forces and paramilitaries. Hundreds of intellectuals, professionals, tribal leaders and workers have been rounded up and arrested as the regime has sought to silence dissent.
The resolution called on Iran to "recommence the EU-Iran Human Rights dialogue with the European Union" and called on the European Commission to monitor human rights abuses further, calls upon the Council and Commission to "intensify contacts and co-operation with the Iranian civil society and independent media."
Addressing Parliament, European Commissioner Jan Figel, speaking on behalf of Benita Ferrero-Waldner (European Commissioner for External Relations), underlined the "excessive use of force to suppress unrest in the provinces of Khuzestan and Kurdistan" as a matter of "deep concern." He added that EU would not sign a trade and cooperation treaty unless human rights issues and concerns over Iran's nuclear programme were addressed.
BAFS Chairman Daniel Brett praised the stance taken by the European Commision and the European Parliament and the work under-taken by Paulo Casaca to highlight the issue of ethnic minorities. He added: "The EU's position is clear: there must be an end to the Iranian regime's policy of violent repression and displacement of Ahwazi Arabs. The Commission and Parliament are making such human rights issues central to EU relations with Iran. We hope that member states will follow the line taken by the European Parliament and prioritise human rights. It is important that the oppressed ethnic and religious minorities, women and opponents of the regime are not forgotten during EU-Iran negotiations."
EU Demands Halt To Nuclear Work, Attacks Tehran's Human Rights Record
EU officials and lawmakers debating Iran in the European Parliament last night repeated earlier warnings that Tehran must stop nuclear-conversion activities or risk UN sanctions. The European Parliament today will adopt a nonbinding declaration calling on Tehran to resume talks with the EU-3 negotiating team of Great Britain, France, and Germany. Iran’s human rights record also came under attack during the debate yesterday.
The European Union yesterday warned Iran that opportunities for negotiation will end unless Tehran stops processing uranium and improves its human rights record.
Addressing the European Parliament in Brussels, Britain’s junior Europe minister, Douglas Alexander, said Iran’s insistence on the right to convert and process uranium could "overshadow Tehran's relationship with the entire international community.”
The EU and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have said they are not convinced Iran is developing its nuclear program solely for peaceful purposes.
Last month, the IAEA board of governors warned Iran it could be referred to the UN Security Council in November. A referral could lead to international sanctions.
Alexander -- who spoke on behalf of the current EU presidency -- said that to avoid sanctions, Iran must stop the nuclear conversion work it resumed in August. It must also restart talks with the EU-3, which were broken off at the same time.
“The resolution passed by the IAEA board of governors
on 24 September makes clear the depth of international concern at Iran’s
decision," Alexander said. "It remains to be seen how Iran will respond.
Iran has an opportunity now to come into line with requests made by the IAEA
board; we hope it would choose that constructive path.”
News agencies reported that Iran’s Foreign Ministry yesterday issued a statement saying it is ready to resume negotiations with Europe. But the statement, as quoted, says Tehran is prepared to conduct talks not only with the EU-3, but with all IAEA members.
This appears to be a fresh attempt by Iran to broaden its pool of negotiation partners -- and therefore its negotiating leverage.
Ending Conversion Work
But the EU says it wants any resumption of talks to be based on the so-called Paris accord, agreed by Tehran and the EU-3 a year ago. The EU says that accord commits Iran to suspending indefinitely all activity related to uranium enrichment. This includes the conversion of uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride, a gas that can be used in uranium enrichment, which in turn would be a key step toward building a nuclear weapon.
Iran resumed production of uranium hexafluoride in August, but says uranium enrichment work is still suspended. However, the Foreign Ministry statement yesterday said Iran wants to return to talks "without preconditions" -- suggesting Tehran is not prepared to end uranium conversion.
Iran says it has a right to a full “nuclear cycle” -- that is, processing its own nuclear fuel -- under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The EU and the United States say that suspicions that Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon overrule any such right.
In August, the EU offered to supply Iran’s nuclear reactors with ready-made nuclear fuel. The EU also held out the prospect of closer political ties and economic assistance in return for a permanent suspension of nuclear work by Iran. Iran rejected the offer.
Human Rights Issue
Yesterday’s debate at the European Parliament also highlighted growing unease within the EU over the repressive policies of Iran's new president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who took office in August.
Douglas Alexander sharply criticized Iran’s practice of allowing children under the age of 18 to be sentenced to death for certain crimes. Some sentences have allegedly been carried out. Alexander said capital punishment for juveniles is a "clear violation" of Iran's obligation under international law. He warned that Iran’s increasingly hard-line stance on human rights will reduce the country’s international standing.
“The EU-Iran human rights dialogue enables the European Union to work to improve the human rights situation in Iran. We would like to see much greater commitment from Iran to the dialogue and to ensuring that the dialogue results in real progress achieved on the ground. We are frankly disappointed that Iran has not yet agreed dates for the next round, and [we] will continue to press them. Iran’s attitude to human rights is damaging its reputation in the international community,” Alexander said.
EU officials and many deputies also demanded the release of the journalist and human rights activist Ahmad Ganji, imprisoned since 2000.
EU Commissioner Jan Figel said the EU has other a number of other concerns as well. “There are other serious issues of concern which have emerged recently: the juvenile death-penalty cases, despite the existence of a moratorium on the death penalty; the arrest of members of the Baha’i faith; the excessive use of force to suppress unrest in the provinces of Khuzestan and Kurdistan; [the] continued suppression of press freedom. Each is a matter of deep concern,” Figel said.
Figel said the EU would not sign a trade-and-cooperation treaty with Iran before these issues are addressed. Trade talks between the two sides were broken off in August when Iran restarted nuclear activities.
The European Parliament will adopt a nonbinding resolution on Iran today.
For RFE/RL's coverage of Iran's controversial nuclear program, see "Iran's Nuclear Program".