Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi asked the European Parliament to support the women-led uprising in Iran during a special session on Wednesday.
Ebadi -- who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her pioneering human rights efforts, especially for women, children, and refugees -- addressed MEPs, urging the EU to maintain pressure on the Iranian regime over human rights violations.
She called on MEPs not to turn their back on the protests in Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, during which more than 550 people have been killed and more than 20,000 arrested so far. "Do not give in to this regime," she appealed to the parliament, insisting that "sanctions work" against the Islamic Republic’s authorities.
"Subordinate aid to Iran, contracts with Iran, and treaties with Iran to respect for international norms, otherwise the money will not benefit the Iranian people at all," said the activist, who now lives in exile.
Before the Iranian opposition figure took the floor European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti delivered speeches about empowering women, reiterating that the International Women's Day – which was celebrated globally on March 8, must be seen as an invitation for societies to do better.
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi (left), European Parliament President Roberta Metsola (center), and astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti during an event related to International Women's Day at the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg (March 15, 2023)
“International Women’s Day is marked in our annual calendar not only to recognize the achievements of women and girls across the world but also as a call to action,” Metsola said. “A rallying point to strengthen gender equality across all spheres of our society.”
Paying homage to Ebadi, she said, “Your presence is a reminder that the fight will not cease, and that freedom requires courage and sacrifice... Women will not go silently into the night. They will not give up. And the European Parliament will continue to stand with the women of Iran.”
“Today I want to honor all those women who are fighting for their freedom and inclusion; women who are killed, beaten, and abused all over the world just for being women…All those women who face all this and remain unbowed and unbroken,” she added.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also praised all the courageous Iranian women fighting for their “freedom to show their hair or cover it, to study, work, to love without asking for anyone’s permission” and for inspiring women across the world.
Ebadi emphasized that Iranian protesters’ demand is regime change under the slogan “Woman, life, freedom,” and called on democracies not to remain indifferent to human rights violations in the country.
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi shakes hands with astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti during an event related to International Women's Day at the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg. (March 15, 2023)
Describing the dire situation of imprisoned journalists, lawyers, artists, activists and young schoolgirls, she decried the absence of a functioning and independent justice system in Iran. "Don't look away from the immense violations of fundamental rights in Iran," she called on the MEPs.
Ebadi also urged the world to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – the IRGC – as a terrorist group. The 27-nation European bloc has so far stopped short of formally labelling the IRGC a terror group, despite calls to do so from Germany and the Netherlands as well as several rounds of rallies by Iranian diaspora communities to push for blacklisting the outfit. She categorically said, “the Revolutionary Guards is a terrorist group," and urged the UE to "say it officially."
Reassuring that Europe would benefit from a democratic Iran, she said if democracy is established in Iran, not only will the number of refugees fleeing from the region be reduced but also peace and calm will be brought back to the region. "Democracy is the key to Iran's future, it is the key to peace and stability in the whole region, and it is also in your interest," she argued. "If democracy comes to Iran, there will be fewer refugees in your country."