By Reza Shafiee
Last month, the Iranian regime’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif had the nerve to visit three Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden and Norway). He expected a walk in the park but to his surprise Iranians residing in Sweden and Norway came out strong and taught him a lesson or two.
Zarif and his bosses, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, hoped for the best but the visits turned into a nightmare. At a press conference in Stockholm after meeting Zarif, Deputy Swedish Prime Minister Margot Wallström, said: “We did not invite him, he came himself.”
The message of the Iranian people’s protests against Zarif was heard loud and clear in Europe: No more appeasement of the murderous mullahs.
A few weeks earlier, Swedish Iranians sent an even stronger message when thousands rallied in Stockholm, urging Scandinavian countries to stop dealing with the most active state sponsor of terrorism, world record holder of executions per capita and proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.
In the first half of this year, the clerical regime hanged 110 people, among them two juveniles. Last week, it hanged nine prisoners en masse. In a shocking report, Reporters without borders said that at least ten Iranian women journalists are currently in jail. Iran is ranked 170th out of 180 counties in RS’s World Press Freedom Index.
The unresolved case of the massacre of political prisoners in 1988 continues to haunt the regime. Zarif’s trip coincided with the 31st anniversary of that massacre. In 2016, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), initiated the Campaign of Justice for those fallen for freedom in the fateful summer of 1988.
Later that year, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri’s son released an archived audio tape of his late father’s meeting with four members of the so-called Death Committees in charge of the massacre. Montazeri was designated as the heir to the previous Supreme Leader Khomeini, but he fell out after publicly criticizing Khomeini’s notorious hand written fatwa ordering the 1988 massacre. The result was a crime against humanity and an estimated 30,000 prisoners were executed.
Amnesty International has done a great job releasing a series of eye-opening reports on the 1988 massacre, including the December 2018 report entitled Blood-soaked secrets: Why Iran’s 1988 prison massacres are ongoing crimes against humanity and more recently Iran: World turning blind eye to crisis of mass enforced disappearance.
Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for MENA. had this to say after the latest AI’s report about the ordeal of the families of 1988 massacre: “The families of those secretly killed in the 1988 prison massacres are still living through a nightmare.”
Many Iranians who came out to denounce Zarif had their loved ones executed by the likes of him in 1988. Some still bore the scars of horrors committed in the clerical regime’s prisons simply for reading an MEK flyer in the 80s.
Recently Zarif landed on the U.S. sanctions list where he belongs. His colleague and Justice Minister in President Hassan Rouhani’s first cabinet, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a senior member of the notorious Death Committee once again defended the regime’s darkest era and said that the regime “We have not yet settled the score with the MEK.”
He has since been promoted as adviser to the head of judiciary, Ebrahim Raisis, another former member of the 1988 Death Committee. The majority of those executed in the summer of 1988 were members and supporters of MEK.
Zarif, therefore, is a propagandist and apologist for a murderous regime. His trip to Scandinavian countries and later Paris was a turning point for the regime and its European interlocutors. He had hoped for a publicity stunt intended for internal consumption. Defections in the regime, especially within the rank and file of the IRGC, is becoming commonplace.
With biting sanctions, an empty government coffer and an appeasement policy on life support, top brass IRGC fat cats need much more than a Zarif’s publicity stunts. Zarif went back empty handed and probably received a slap on the wrist from Khamenei for embarrassing the regime by letting a member of his press corps escape and seek asylum in Sweden.
The trip was a disaster. Zarif was caught off guard with the reaction of brave Iranians sending a strong message to Tehran. Iranians showed that they no longer accept mullah regime officials in their host countries. Europe should listen.