Finland deported ex-Muslim to Iran, then discussed business with its FM

Kurdish demonstrators in Helsinki protesting Iranian theocracy in January 2018. Photo: Juhani Huttunen

Two weeks ago, an Iranian man called Sardar was arrested at an airport in Tehran. He was taken to a three-hour interrogation after which no one has heard from him since. He disappeared.

Sardar had left his Islamic faith and converted to Christianity, which is why he sought refuge in Finland three years ago. He lived in a small municipal community of Kemijärvi in the province of Lapland, the home of Santa Claus. After a three-year wait, the Finnish Immigration Service’s decision was negative. The officials acknowledged Christians and especially those who have left Islam are widely persecuted in Iran, yet they decided it is possible for Sardar to survive in the theocratic Shiite regime, should he keep a low profile.

It does not belong to the Finnish Immigration Service’s policy to disclose backgrounds of any single process. Hence, we do not know the real reasons behind this particular decision.

A week after Sardar was escorted to his unknown fate Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif visited Finland in order to strengthen trade relations between Iran and Finland. In a press conference held after the meeting, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto listed topics that they discussed. Haavisto raised concerns relating to the Syrian war, captured vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, and human rights situation in Iran. To this point, Haavisto’s views were well founded. Then, however, Haavisto showed his veritable focus as he moved on to highlight the importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the nuke deal. “We view it as a very important international agreement and we should all do our best to keep the agreement,” Haavisto said.

Last June, Tehran had threatened that if the EU does not circumvent the sanctions imposed by the United States, Iran will start enriching uranium at levels which deliberately violate the nuke deal. A few weeks later, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, confirmed that Iran had already stored radioactive material. In fact, this was not new, for already in September 2018 in the UN General Assembly, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed maps with marked hot spots of the areas where Iran hide evidence of the nuclear program in progress. The hot spots on the map that Netanyahu showed the world were the same ones the IAEA already confirmed in July. It should be clear to Minister Haavisto and leaders of the EU that Iran had already crossed the red line long before the ultimatum was given last June.

In December 2018, a fellow-citizen of Haavisto, Mr. Tomas Sandell, the founding director of the European Coalition for Israel, exposed only months after the United States had recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made a few phone calls to instruct several central and eastern European countries not to follow the United States’ example. Sandell had reasons to believe that Merkel’s maneuver was an attempt to preserve the nuke deal with Iran. Business again, one may rightly assume.

A screenshot of a private video of Pekka Haavisto giving a speech in a far-left demonstration in 2018.

Considering Chancellor Merkel’s policy, it might be interesting to know about Minister Haavisto’s opinions of Israel. When the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel in 2017, Haavisto, then-member of the parliament, made it clear that Finland must make a strong protest against the US policy. Haavisto wrote on Twitter, “Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with EU Foreign Ministers on Monday in Brussels. This is the right moment for Finland to express its position, that we do not accept anything running counter to UN rulings on the status of Jerusalem, nor the building of illegal settlements.”

Later, in early June of 2018 in Helsinki, Haavisto gave a speech in a far-left demonstration, which was held in memory of the victims of the violent protests, which were orchestrated by Hamas at Gaza borders. The main organizer of the event in Helsinki was a far-left NGO called ICAHD Finland, which is known for its support for annihilation of the Jewish state in favor of a one democracy under an Arab majority population. Co-organizers of the event included Finnish Muslim youth association known for its ties to the Forum Of European Muslim Youth And Student Organizations, or FEMYSO, which belongs to the European Muslim Brotherhood network. Another co-organizer of the event was the Finnish chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization of which the American parent body is said to have links to Hamas affiliates. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Students for Justice in Palestine regularly demonize Jewish students. The reason for Haavisto to participate in such an event was that among the co-organizers was also the Federation of Green Youth and Students of Finland, which is the youth branch of Pekka Haavisto’s Greens party. None of the protesters was ever disturbed by the use of Nazi symbols by Hamas.

In his speech, then-MP Haavisto said how great it was to see so many people standing up against the iniquity the Palestinians have faced over decades. He also repeated his opinion of Jerusalem, adding that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital hampers future peace talks. Moreover, he speculated whether there could be an alternative for the two-state solution. He continued to say that, “this alternative is a one-state solution without apartheid.” He then rapidly added that he himself supported the two-state solution.

After Haavisto’s speech, the demonstrators formed a procession. They marched towards the Parliament House in Helsinki and chanted, “Israel is a murderer, Israel is a murderer!”

Considering Haavisto’s history of uttering such statements over the years, I believe he really does not have problems with the strengthening of Finnish ties with Iran.

The problem with Iran it is not only about the nukes. Iran funds its terror network by running a billion dollar drug business from its hub in Venezuela. No one even asks how many lives Hezbollah has ruined by selling narcotics. Iran’s invisible hand abroad, the infamous Quds Force, has carried out numerous assassinations of Iran’s opposition leaders in Europe.

“Israel is a murdered,” shouted anti-Israel demonstrators in June 2018. A screenshot of a private video.

Iran surrounds Israel from three fronts now. Currently, its military support for Hamas amounts to $30 million dollars monthly, making the Strip the Shiite regime’s minion. At the same time, Hezbollah’s hegemony has crossed the Lebanese borders into the Golan Heights in Syria where the troops under Bashar al-Assad take orders from a Hezbollah commander. These changes have taken place in a relatively short time. For Israel, the situation must be troubling as it would not be the first time for Israel’s enemies to try to trick the Jewish state into a war on multiple fronts. I do not know if Finland’s foreign policy leadership is aware of this development.

So what about Sardar, the man Iranian officials arrested after his painful deportation from Finland? His friends in Finland mourn for him. What is behind the Finnish Immigration Service’s negative answer to him?

Some people say it was just bad luck in the bureaucratic lottery. Others say that Finland professes a racist immigration policy. In his blog, a very good friend of Sardar, Pentti Tepsa, says the opposite. Tepsa, who serves as a vicar of Kemijärvi congregation, suggested that the negative answer was a result from Finnish official’s fear of being labelled as racist. Indeed, over the last ten or fifteen years, Finnish politicians have remained surprisingly silent over the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Whatever the reason is, things are bad if Finland’s reluctance to bring out Iran’s human rights abuses is due to its business concerns.

About the Author
Juhani Huttunen is a Finnish journalist who has focused on the Middle East issues. He is of a Lutheran Christian background. Views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect any official position of any agency or media company.
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