The photos of Federica Mogherini at the Iranian parliament where she went on an official visit to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Hassan Rouhani who was elected for a second term, aroused embarrassment for various reasons.
First and foremost, it was a ridiculous spectacle: the numerous selfies the Iranian parliamentarians took alongside Mogherini emerge like a visit to the zoo of emancipated women, and certainly not as a sign of admiration. “Look” they seem to say “here is an extravagant example of a blond woman with an important political role who has come to the Islamic Republic not only to wear her diversity with proud but to show her fondness for us .Let’s take some photos”.
In this manner, we can see the handsome High Representative of the EU’s Foreign Affairs among those seated in the hemicycle surrounded by onlookers, on her head she’s donning a large Islamic headscarf that covers her hair. And, sincerely, given that Iranian women are forced to wear the veil in order to avoid arrest, a fine or public admonishment and slashes and aren’t allowed to work or study without it, this doesn’t seem like a gesture that has anything to do with respect for religious observance, but instead the acceptance of a law that symbolizes coercion and violation of human rights.
This is something we, Western women, refuse, and it shouldn’t elicit a trite and courteous smile vis-à-vis a regime that not only permits legal discrimination against women, but also reduces them to a state of permanent inferiority: women in Iran need to ask a father or husband’s permission to go out or even to be accompanied out; criminal punishment for those who refuse compulsory sex; denying custody of young children to mothers; unpunished brutality; marriages imposed on 9-year-old girls; appalling punishments if they don’t obey a husband and even the death penalty for infidelity, in the most heinous cases by stoning… Women’s lives with the veil is difficult in Iran, Mogherini made it just a vane issue.
And we shouldn’t be persuaded by those allegedly reformist ideals that have never come about, but instead support those who are fighting heroically for their freedom like the many women who demonstrated in the streets, like Neda who was shot dead during the 2009 Iranian election protests, or alternatively give voice to those who express their aspirations for change through many heart wrenching films, books, articles, and who are often oliged to choose the exile.
The European Union’s foreign minister, who likes to highlight her work on human rights, has always been too ready to stand smiling alongside the Iranians even during the negotiations for the treaty with the G5+1 against Iran’s nuclear program, imagining apparently that this would lead to advantageous political results. But this is not the case: the agreement was signed and to put an end to the construction of the atomic bomb by Tehran and to date there the Congress decided that there haven’t been violations. However, the spirit and the substance have been violated by the growing imperialism of Iran, and let’s hope that this at the end would lead not only to the repeal of the agreement itself.. Despite this agreement the Iranian regime hasn’t changed its tune by producing a “pacifist spirit.” There are countless signs that Iran remains one of the main violators of human rights, and that its foreign policy is bellicose and very hostile to the West, to which we belong, and sponsors terrorism.
Hassan Rouhani holds the position of president for a second term primarily because the religious Supreme Leader Khamenei decided his reelection: that’s how it works in Iran, and Khamenei’s influence marks all the massive rallies held by the Revolutionary Guards, the country’s true leaders, to the rhythm of slogans that chant, “Death to America, Death to Israel,” while he governs the country with an Islamist iron fist. Rouhani, behind a kind smile, hides a very long career as a protagonist in a country where prohibiting dissidents to exist and speak, corruption and oppression are par for the course. Is this the kind of moderate you would like? You wouldn’t say so given the number of death sentences executed under his rule, 3000 executions, with a drop to 530 in 2016 and a fast increase during the first six months of 2017, specifically 340, with 100 in July alone. Those executed are hung from cranes, and very often they are youths guilty of being homosexual or accused of drug trafficking. Rouhani’s foreign policy is among the most aggressive in Iran’s history, which by now sees Iranian men and weapons sent almost everywhere throughout the Middle East in order to advance an imperialistic design that is yielding its fruits: beyond their own country, Iranian forces control Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. The latter’s presence in these countries has created a situation where the war between Shiites and Sunnis has become increasingly dangerous and active. Israel, meanwhile, is now ever more under threat as Iran’s use of it proxy Hezbollah increases and it repairs its relationship with Hamas.
No, it’s not easy to celebrate Rouhani’s return to power, but it’s abundantly clear that it’s easy for the Iranian Parliament to rejoice in the presence of a nice European woman who just being there helps foster their ambitions.
Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Grazia (August, 2017)