At the end of last year, millions of people in Iran took to the streets to protest against the economic issues that were affecting all classes of society. The protests started in the city of Mashhad and spread across the country. They quickly turned into anti-government demonstrations and calls for “Death to Khamenei and Death to Rouhani”. It was very clear that the people of Iran see regime change as the only way forward.
As always, when the Iranian regime is faced with dissent and protests, there was a major crackdown. Thousands of people were arrested and scores of people were killed. This reaction from the regime is not surprising – it is the standard reaction that the people of Iran have experiences, and the world has witnessed, for decades.
However, the international community failed to respond accordingly. And the Iranian regime has not been made to face the consequences of its unjust oppression and its violation of human rights.
The people of Iran have not been dissuaded – not by the Iranian regime’s brutal reaction and not by the relative silence of many international leaders. They are strongly supported by each other in Iran and they have the backing of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main opposition to the regime.
There are still protests going on across the country and young people were chanting the same slogans about regime change that were heard in January.
It is important that the West reacts to the protests and to the regime’s brutal attempts at extinguishing them. Europe in particular must take action. It is taking about trade deals and normalized relations with Iran, but this must be postponed until Iran takes human rights seriously. The EU upholds the human rights of its citizens and it must ensure that it does not negotiate with a regime that disregards those of its own people.
For as long as Europe remains silent, the Iranian regime will continue to ignore human rights. It has faced impunity for decades and the only way to put an end to this is for international leaders and organisations, as well as the European Parliament, to demand an international commission of inquiry into the human rights abuses. Silence is complicity.
The regime is in a place of extreme desperation. It is under pressure from its own people, but also from the United States because of the 2015 nuclear deal. President Trump, who has made his feelings about Iran very clear, is threatening to pull the United States out of the deal if Europe does not fix the major flaws.
The United States is keen to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and there is talk of further sanctions that will cripple the country.
More pressure like this will likely push the regime over the edge. It cannot be allowed to continue its belligerent rampage across the Middle East and the people of Iran must have their human rights restored. Let’s not forget that the international community must uphold the rights of everyone.