An international conference “The oppression of Minorities in Iran: The Azeri community as an example” was organised at the European Parliament by the AZfront organization and EPP group.
The conference was attended by 6 MEPs and 5 high-level speakers including human rights organizations as well as experts and researchers in Iran from France, Belgium and Israel.
The debate was moderated by Manel Msalmi, International Affairs advisor and expert on Iran. Mrs Msalmi opened the debate by highlighting the issues faced by minorities in Iran and the fight of Ahwazis, Kurds, Baluch, Azeris and Turks for equal rights that has been going on for decades. He emphasized the need to bring this issue into the focus of European and international politicians.
The key speaker, MEP Donato, stressed the role that the EU plays in supporting democracy, gender equality and freedom in Iran and the Middle East, and the need to have an efficient dialogue with the EU parliament and the EU commission in order to guarantee the rights of women and minorities in Iran.
The participants watched a video showing an Iranian Azeri woman sharing a testimony about the discrimination she endures on a regular basis: linguistic, cultural and political, including strict rules concerning modesty (hijab is forced on all women in Iran regardless of their culture or creed).
Dr Mordechai Kedar from Israel, took the floor right after to mention the atrocities of the regime with regard to women and minorities including the Arabs, the Kurds, the Baluchs and the Turks that they have been witnessing for decades. They were denied their civil rights and subject to social, cultural and economic discrimination.
Thierry Valle, the President of CAP Liberté de Conscience discussed the situation of religious freedom in Iran, specifically the discrimination and persecution suffered by religious minorities. He mentioned the case of the Baha’i community, which has just commemorated the 40th anniversary of the execution of 10 women on June 18, 1983, for refusing to renounce their beliefs. He also mentioned the lesser-known case of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light community, which is enduring severe state-sponsored religious persecution. He concluded by urging Iran to put an end to the systematic discrimination and persecution of minorities and to comply with universal principles of respect for human rights for all Iranians.
Claude Moniquet, former journalist and former French intelligence officer and co-director of ESISC, emphasized that the Iranian regime is known for its repression of women, minorities and the execution of homosexuals. Minorities are discriminated against in terms of religion, culture, and social and economic backgrounds which led to demonstrations and violence because they are denied their basic rights. He also reminded us that Iran is effectively a terrorist regime that doesn’t hesitate to take hostages to reach its goals.
In Iran, over 350 executions are carried out annually. The victims include disproportionate numbers of ethnic and religious minorities. But these killings are not happening solely in Iran: dissidents were also killed outside Iran on European soil.
It is important to note that there is a tendency to think that the Azeri minority is privileged, which is not true. On the contrary, Azeris are viewed as one of the major threats to the regime, with a full-fledged system of oppression and propaganda rolled out against them. A video that sums up the situation of the Azeri minority included outrageous examples, such as pictures from the state media that depict Azeris as insects.
MEP De Meo, in his turn, underscored the importance with which the EU takes minority issues, and stressed that the international community should give support to Iranians, including non-Persian populations, who strive to be free and equal. The EU should offer a helping hand to everyone, regardless of their cultural or religious background.
MEP Adinolfi focused on culture and the need to stop discrimination in terms of education and culture. Minorities in Iran should have the right to learn their own language and celebrate their cultural heritage freely.
MEP Lucia Vuolo spoke about the importance of religious freedom and cultural identity, and the need to stop violence against minorities, in particular the Azeri minority in Iran. MEP Gianna Gancia, who has been working for many years to help Iranian dissidents, mainly women and minorities persecuted by the regime, said that the EU is committed to protecting vulnerable groups and helping refugees fleeing from dictatorship and prosecution.
Andy Vermaut, president of Postversa, said that “We have a role to play, a responsibility to uphold for the people of Iran who have endured so much. Let us be a beacon of hope and a force of positive change. When they look back at this dark chapter of history, let them remember not just the hardships they faced but the global coalition that stood by them, fighting for their rights, amplifying their voices, and fighting relentlessly for their rights for a just and a free Iran”.
The Director of CAP Liberté de Conscience, Christine Mirre, exposed the repression of Iranian women in Iran. She highlighted the status of women in Iran, including those of Kurdish, Arab, Baluchi, and Azeri ethnic backgrounds. Those women are facing various forms of discrimination and marginalization, including limited access to education, employment opportunities, and political representation. She also mentioned the emblematic and recent case of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, who died on September 16, 2022, three days after being arrested in Tehran by the regime’s morality police.
The death of Mahsa Amini shocked the world and demonstrated the ethnic discrimination and sexist policies characteristic of the Iranian regime.
The conference concluded with the speech of MEP host Fulvio Martusciello, who has been working for many years to support minorities in Iran. He stressed that the EU did a lot by adopting a resolution to protect women and girls.
There were some important initiatives like the conference in Vienna and the letter of 32 Israeli Knesset members. Such activities should continue to jointly pursue the cause of granting freedom and rights to the Southern Azerbaijanis and other minorities in Iran.