The EU pushed Iran on Monday to guarantee the right to protest as authorities have moved to crack down on days of unrest across the nation. Protests broke out Thursday and have quickly grown to become the biggest test for the regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.
“We have been in touch with the Iranian authorities and we expect that the right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression will be guaranteed,” a spokeswoman for the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor developments,” the spokeswoman added.
The violent protests, which left at least 21 people dead, were sparked by concerns about rising living costs and a stagnant economy, but have escalated into a broader outcry against the regime.
The latest demonstrations on Monday came despite president Hassan Rouhani’s vow that the nation would deal with “rioters and lawbreakers.” Authorities have confirmed more than 400 arrests since the outbreak of the unrest, of whom around 100 have been freed.
Meanwhile, Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson called for Iran to engage in meaningful debate about issues raised by protesters which he said were “legitimate and important,” as the worst wave of unrest in almost a decade in the Middle Eastern country continued. Johnson called for freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate peacefully to be respected. “The UK is watching events in Iran closely. We believe that there should be meaningful debate about the legitimate and important issues the protesters are raising and we look to the Iranian authorities to permit this,” he said in a post
German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed concern on Monday about the death of protesters in Iran and appealed to the Iranian government to respect people’s rights. The protests by tens of thousands of people are the biggest in Iran since unrest in 2009 that followed the disputed re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “We appeal to the Iranian government to respect the rights of the demonstrators to assemble and to peacefully raise their voices,” Gabriel said. “After the confrontations of recent days, it is all the more important that all sides refrain from violent actions.” Germany is one of the world powers that agreed to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in which sanctions were lifted in return for Iran taking steps to limit its enrichment of uranium.
France said it is concerned by the number of victims and arrests in Iran, a foreign ministry spokesman said as the death toll from anti-government demonstrations rose, declining to confirm the French foreign minister would visit Tehran this week. “The right to protest is a fundamental right,” the spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday. Asked if foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian maintained a planned visit to Tehran, the spokesman said he had no information on this at this stage.
Turkey said today it was concerned by reports of people dying and public buildings being damaged in Iran during a police crackdown against anti-government demonstrations that began last week. “We believe it is necessary to avoid violence and not succumb to provocations,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement, adding it hoped foreign interventions would be avoided.
Canada urged Iranian authorities on Tuesday to respect the rights of protesters after days of unrest have left at least 21 people dead and hundreds arrested. “Canada is encouraged by the Iranian people who are exercising their basic right to protest peacefully,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “We call on the Iranian authorities to uphold and respect democratic and human rights.” Canadian diplomatic authorities also vowed that “Canada will continue to support the fundamental rights of Iranians, including the right to freedom of expression.”
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Tuesday expressed his “regret” at the rising death toll in anti-government protests in Iran, and called on the Islamic Republic to respect the rights of peaceful protesters. “We regret the reported loss of life and hope further violence will be avoided. We expect that the rights to peaceful assembly and expression of the Iranian people will be respected,” Guterres spokesman Farhan Aziz Haq said on behalf of the secretary-general.
In response, Iranian officials have said online accounts in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are fomenting protests. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had blamed the country’s “enemies” earlier Tuesday for almost six days of deadly unrest that have shaken the conservative country. “The enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime,” Khamenei said. A fifth night of unrest Monday to Tuesday saw six protesters killed during an attack on a police station in Qahderijan in the central province of Isfahan, state TV said, bringing the death toll to 21.