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European Parliament's controversial October trip to Iran

By Abbas Rezai - posted Monday, 15 October 2012

Once again, the European Parliament is planning to send a delegation to Tehran. The trip, scheduled for the end of this month, was confirmed by the parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iran just before summer.

Described as a "bridge building exercise", the seven-day trip is to set off on Saturday 27 October and could include up to 14 members of the European Parliament according to the minutes of the Delegations' July meeting made available on parliament's website only last month. Iranian officials also confirmed that the October visit is on their agenda.

Although the Delegation has made repeated attempts to visit Iran in recent years, no such visits has materialised during the current parliamentary term.


The first attempt in 2009 failed due to the "unfavourable political climate" created by the fraudulent presidential elections hijacked by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In September 2010, the parliament authorised a delegation to Tehran, conditioned partly on lifting the death penalty on an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery. That condition was not met and the proposed delegation therefore did not travel.

The Delegation made a third attempt In October 2011 but was faced with public outrage which prompted cancellation of the trip at the last minute.

Several people were hanged in public during the last trip by a European parliamentary delegation to Iran in 2007. The trip was hailed by the Iranian media.

The idea to have a European delegation designated for relations with Iran first emerged in 2004 when the Iranian embassy worked hard to establish a formal liaison with the European Parliament. The Iran lobby within the EU justified this as an instrument to boost the so called moderate president Mohammad Khatami. Ironically enough, the delegation was established only after the hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in 2005 and therefore could hardly serve its purpose. Nevertheless, the rapprochement only intensified and delegations from both sides started to exchange inter-parliamentary visits.

European Parliament's principles for governing delegation activities specify that a delegation should "contribute to promoting in third countries the values on which the European Union is founded, namely the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."


The record of the past few years suggests the opposite in the case of Iran.

The latest Year Report by Amnesty International, counts 634 executions carried out in Iran during 2011. That puts Iran to world's number one executioner state, per capita. The number of public executions in Iran quadrupled compared to the previous year.

Another report by Amnesty International says at least 143 children were on death row in Iranian prisons, waiting to go to the gallows when they reach 18.

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This article was first published on  The Huffington Post.

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About the Author

Abbas Rezai is a human rights activist who served seven months in Iran's notorious Evin Prison in the 1980s. Forced in to exile he never gives up the idea of returning back to a free Iran.

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