Abir Al-Sahlani is an Iraqi-born Swedish member of the European Parliament.
For weeks now, the world has been witnessing the incredible courage of the women of Iran, as the brutal killing of Mahsa Amini has catalyzed massive protests against a regime that compulsively controls the bodies, minds and lives of women — a regime that has responded to the uprising with lethal brutality.
In a desperate wish to control the narrative and hide the government’s crimes and atrocities, journalists have been arrested, phone networks are being jammed and the Internet censored.
And still, the women of Iran aren’t backing down. Instead, the protests are spreading, and Persian, Azeri, Kurdish women, many of them very young, are paying the ultimate price for freedom with their lives.
The world’s leaders, meanwhile, are standing on the sidelines. But the time for press releases and statements is long gone. It’s time for European leaders to speak up and act.
At the U.N. General Assembly last week, most leaders chose to hold their tongues rather than use the world stage to take a stand for the women of Iran. The contrast between that silence and the clamorous voices of chanting women in Iran’s streets couldn’t be starker.
Where is the European Union? Where is High Representative Josep Borrell? Where is Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission?
Last Tuesday, the high representative stood in the plenary of the European Parliament and mumbled his way through a statement containing no promises to the people of Iran. No commitment to action.
Meanwhile, the Commission president has yet to show any real act of solidarity with the protesters. Certainly, we should expect more from the head of the world’s only union of democracies.
That same day, I stood in the plenary of the Parliament, just a couple of meters from Mr. Borrell, and I chose to end my speech by cutting my hair in respect of the centuries-old traditional Iranian display of rebellion.
I know the citizens of Europe care deeply about what’s happening in Iran. Courage is contagious, and Europeans everywhere are protesting, speaking up and demanding that women in Iran, and everywhere in the world, be given the same rights they enjoy every day. As an elected representative of these citizens, I wanted to bring the voices of the brave women of Iran into the beating political heart of our union.
Now, it’s up to the EU to translate that collective anger into action.
Borrell should call for an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council to take swift action, signaling that the EU stands on the side of Iranian women.
All Iranian officials associated with the “morality police” and who are responsible for the death of Mahsa Jina Amini and the violence against protestors should be added to the list of those being sanctioned under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.
The Commission should follow the United States’ lead and do everything in its power to facilitate European companies in providing the people of Iran with the technology and communication services that can circumvent the regime’s censorship. Human rights organizations have been advocating for this for years already, and the growing blackout of all telecommunications in the country shows that this is more important than ever.
The EU and its members must also actively push the U.N. to order a thorough investigation, led by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, into the events of recent weeks. This will be crucial in holding those guilty accountable.
And all of this must be followed by strong and visible acts of solidarity from all European leaders. The people of Iran should never doubt the EU’s commitment to freedom and democracy for all.
The hands of the mullahs’ regime are stained with blood, and neither history nor Allah or God will ever forgive them for their crimes against humanity, against their own citizens — neither should the EU.
We, the people and the citizens of the EU, demand an unconditional and immediate end to all violence against the women and men of Iran.
Until Iran is free, our fury will be bigger than that of the oppressors.
Until the women of Iran are free, we stand with you.
Jin, Jiyan, Azadi. Women. Life. Freedom.