THE BLOG
20/10/2011 10:11 BST | Updated 19/12/2011 05:12 GMT

European Parliament "Iran Delegation" Plans Shameful Trip To Tehran

European Parliament's delegation for relations with Iran is planning to pay a five-day visit to Tehran at the end of this month.

The request for this trip was made months ago by two German MEPs Barbara Lochbieler and Kurt Lechner as part of the delegation. The trip will cost European tax-payers an estimated €100.000.

No delegation from the European Parliament has visited Iran in the current parliamentary term. It was due to concerns of atrocities committed by the Iranian authorities that the world witnessed following the sham Presidential Elections that was hijacked by Mahoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

In September 2010, the European Parliament had authorised a delegation to Tehran on some conditions including lifting of the death penalty on Sakieneh Ashtiani who has been sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery. This condition was not met and the proposed 2010 delegation therefore did not travel.

Ms Ashtiani still remains on death row and nothing has improved but the new trip seems to have been planned ahead despite high criticism by international observers and NGOs. A 5-member delegation is scheduled to visit Tehran and other Iranian cities between 31 October and 4 November.

Only last month, Iran officially hanged a record high number of 100 prisoners and two weeks ago, the European Union expanded sanctions against 29 Iran officials because of their involvement in human rights abuses which the EU say have increased over the past weeks and months, including the execution of minors.

Opposition websites have warned of hundreds of newly planned executions since mid-September. A young Christian pastor, charged with apostasy, has been made to choose between renouncing his faith or die.

Last time a European Parliament delegation visited Iran in 2007, several people were hanged in public at their arrival day as well as during their visit. The delegation had justified the trip as ordinary inter-parliamentary activity.

Iran's strictly controlled elections systems allows only the highly loyal to run for a seat in the Majlis, the Iranian parliament. The current composition of the Majlis that the EP delegation is scheduled to meet consists to nearly a third of commanders of the notorious Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) many of whom have been involved in horrendous human rights abuses in the 1980s.

The IRGC was also involved in the alleged terror-plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador in the United States this month.

Critics say whatever good intentions the EP delegation may claim to have, the mere fact that they do visit that dictatorship gives a highly undeserved credit to that regime, at the time when the international community is increasingly united in isolating the dictatorship for cruel behaviour of its people as well as its role in international terrorism.

"An EP visit would only be interpreted by Iran, as if no matter what crimes they commit, they are still respected and welcomed by the international community!" says, Ali M. an Iranian dissident who fled Iran few months ago and has applied for asylum in Luxembourg.

"Any visit to that regime is an insult to the blood of our loved ones who were murdered by the regime's henchmen" says Fereshte Dashti, an exiled Iranian who lost seven of her closest relatives for opposing the dictatorship in Iran.

"I am appalled to see these people insisting so much to make such trips, they seem to have nothing but personal interests. Human lives seem to mean nothing to them," she lamented.

The idea of such trip has also prompted frustration among other prominent members of European Parliament.

Struan Stevenson, a leading British Conservative MEP and President of Parliament's Delegations for relations with Iraq was outraged last week when he addressed Parliament's plenary session.

"Three hundred prisoners have been transferred to death row expecting imminent execution - and these are people, mostly students, who were arrested during the uprisings in Teheran and other cities in Iran - I think it is a deeply retrograde step that this House, that the Conference of Presidents, has agreed to send a delegation to Teheran in two or three weeks time. I think Iran is now beyond the pale; to give them that kind of publicity, to give them that kind of oxygen is completely wrong," he stressed.

He was supported by a colleague MEP Potito Salatto "I think this action will only be used as propaganda to publicise the regime in Tehran."

Italian MEP Marco Scurria, posted a statement on his website urging the new head of the Iran delegation, Mrs Tarja Cronberg, to cancel this trip in light of Iran's recent terror plot against United States.

"Rather than sending a delegation to Tehran it's time for Europe to put its hopes on the Iranian people and that the winds of the Arab Spring soon arrives to Iran, a country and a people who have such great historical and cultural traditions and does not deserve such government" he stressed in a joint statement with two colleagues.

In a time when Iran and Syria together with current Iraqi Prime minister seem to have built a vicious-block to prevent any democratic change, such visits would highly jeopardise European Parliament's reputation in the eyes of the suffering people of Iran and the rest of the Middle East.

Many are waiting to see if the newly appointed Finish Chair of the Iran delegation, Ms Tarja Cronberg will have the courage to change the course and cancel or postpone the trip to a later stage when the circumstances are less strained.