Iran and the European Union: The Case for Democracy

The European Union is opposing democracy in Iran because it feels happy continuing shady deals with the Iranian oligarchy feeding the pockets of European unscrupulous businesses.


Photo courtesy of the author that depicts a delegation of the socialist group in the European Parliament being received by the then speaker of the Majlis – and one of the leaders of the Iranian regime – in the Majlis in October 2013.

BRUSSELS  In a matter of hours, a demonstration in Mashhad – the second largest Iranian city – against the Iranian authorities’ economic mismanagement became a national movement. The economic rapidly became political; the initial criticism regarding the misuse of the country’s resources for an expansionist agenda quickly became a direct attack on the religious leadership.

Within five days there developed a full-scale rebellion against the theocratic system. Iranians bravely defied the repressive forces, burned posters of the supreme leader, attacked revolutionary courts as well as police and revolutionary guard’s headquarters and other public buildings. The authorities responded by cutting the telecommunications network and unleashing drastically repressive measures, so far leading to an acknowledged over thirty protestor fatalities and a thousand arrests.

This movement is far more powerful than the last protests taking place in the wake of the fraudulent “elections” of 2009. It is not confined to Tehran and other major urban centers; on the contrary, it covers the whole country. It is not restricted to the middle class but is based on the urban poor. Most importantly, it explicitly dismisses the “conservative-reformist” charade and calls for the resignation of the two clerics heading both so-called “opposing” factions. The movement explicitly aims at replacing the theocratic regime with a democratic regime.

The Law

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948, recognizes that “it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

This has been transformed into European Union law through the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It is also recognized as a major international legal principle.

For decades the Iranian theocratic tyranny has ruthlessly imprisoned, tortured and assassinated its own people without ever being properly sanctioned by international judicial mechanisms. In spite of the repeated insistence by legitimate Iranian opposition forces and by human rights associations, the international community never conditioned relations with the Iranian regime on the basis of accomplishment of basic human rights (foremost, the right to be governed by the rule of law rather than the rule of tyrants claiming to act in the name of God).

The Iranian people’s rebellion against tyranny and oppression is, therefore, the last resource and should be now respected as a matter of principle and action. The international community should state loud and clear that it respects the right of the Iranian people to self-determination and freedom from a tyrannous and despised theocracy. In so doing, it should demand the end of the repression and freedom to the political prisoners. It should also demonstrate its availability for supporting free and fair elections in the country, backing this support with international sanctions against those who participate in the violations of human rights of the Iranian citizens.

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On the fifth day of the present rebellion, EU institutions finally made their first statement. However, the pronouncement did not recognize the rights of the Iranian people under the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It did not appeal to the Iranian authorities to stop assassinating, arresting or torturing its own citizens, nor did it recognize the right of the Iranian people to replace the theocratic system by a democratic system.

The European External Action Service declared that “we expect all concerned to refrain from violence and the right of expression to be guaranteed, also in light of the statements made by the Iranian Government,” as if there could be an equivalence between the two sides and as if claims by the theocracy regarding free speech could ever be considered meaningful. This insults not only the Iranian people but also the democratic values on which the European Union is based.

Moral Values and the Double-Standard

What is more shocking is that the very same European institutions supposed to guarantee democratic values expressed themselves only after national authorities from both Germany and France condemned violence by the Iranian authorities in a much clearer and unequivocal way. One feels that EU institutions felt obliged to move by the “Franco-German axis.”

In my tenure as a councilor by the Portuguese Permanent Representation to the European Union two decades ago, I remember how during Christmas time the diplomat in duty had to go through so many declarations and positions regarding an immense array of violations of human rights across the globe. Now, not a word for five days; and, when the declaration finally comes, it condones the Iranian regime’s tyrannical acts!

The Iranian tyrannical system has kept its grip on power on the basis of terror and repression. The Iranian economy is controlled by a corrupt and wealthy aghazadeh (the families of the high cast clergy) through bonyads (religious foundations supposed to take care of widows and poor, but actually producing wealth for the ruling class) or family monopolies such as the famous Rafsanjani (which started with pistachios). Most of the other important companies lie in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards which use the proceedings to enrich themselves and to promote terrorism and expansionism overseas.

Although rich in oil, Iran is far more populated than other oil-rich countries and spends vast amounts of wealth on military arms programs and subsidizing terror outfits and militia throughout the world.

In these conditions, international deals with the Iranian market cannot exist without a high level of economic and political corruption. Therefore, the diplomatic priority is given by the European authorities to make economic and political deals with Iran can only be understood as the priority it gives to the dark side of its own economic and political interests.

The truth is that the European Union is opposing democracy in Iran because it feels happy continuing shady deals with the Iranian oligarchy feeding the pockets of European unscrupulous businesses (as well as a cohort of supposed Iranian experts in the press and academia that have been seriously distorting the image of the Iranian tyranny within Europe).

The plight of democracy in Iran can, therefore, be seen as inextricable from the plight of European citizens for European institutions that work democratically and without being captured by special interests.

Paulo Casaca is Director of SADF. Read other articles by Paulo.

  • Ali1727

    Ali Alyami,
    Good analysis, Michael. The same could happen in Saudi Arabia due to similar conditions. The Europeans reaction will be the same as theirs toward the Iranian uprising. Ali