Thousands of people call on the EU to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group

Meanwhile, former Iranian diplomats criticise Tehran's foreign policy

AFP/FREDERICK FLORIN  -   Thousands take part in a rally against the Iranian regime in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Iranians living in Europe have travelled to the heart of the EU to demand that the EU designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Iran (IRGC) as a terrorist group. From across the continent, thousands of Iranians and activists have gathered in Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament, to call on EU politicians to follow the US and the UK in blacklisting the IRGC in Brussels. 

Washington designated the Iranian body a terrorist organisation in 2019 under Donald Trump. On the other hand, according to British press reports, London is considering taking the same decision.  

AP/JEAN-FRANCOIS BADIAS - An activist holds a picture of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi during a rally in support of Iranian anti-government protesters in Strasbourg

According to police figures gathered by AFP, some 12,000 people took part in the demonstration and subsequent march to the Parliament, where a monthly plenary session was taking place. Parliament's President Roberta Metsola assured demonstrators that the EU supported the ongoing protests in Iran. The protests began last September after the killing of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini by the Morality Police for wearing the Islamic headscarf incorrectly. 

Since then, nearly 500 people have died as a result of brutal police repression. In addition, the Iranian authorities have already begun executions. So far, the theocratic regime has killed four men: Mohsen Shekari (23 years old), Majidreza Rahnavard (23 years old), Mohammad Mehdi Karami (22 years old) and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini (39 years old). The number of those executed is likely to rise as several more are sentenced to be hanged. 

AFP/FREDERICK FLORIN - A rally against the Iranian regime outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.

"We will press the international community to respond forcefully to the terror unleashed by the regime on the people of Iran. There must be a strong global response," Metsola declared.  

Since the protests began, Iranians have called on the international community to take strong and firm action against the regime. These include sanctions against the military-political elite, the suspension of relations with Tehran and the expulsion of members of the regime from European soil. Including the IRGC on the EU's list of terrorist organisations "would change things immensely, first of all economically and geopolitically", Sahar Aghakhani, a 26-year-old French-Iranian student who attended the demonstration in Strasbourg, told AFP.  

Iranians denounce that for years the Revolutionary Guard has been terrorising and killing Iranian civilians both inside and outside the country. They also point out that the organisation plays a key role in the destabilisation of the Middle East. As the United Youth of Iran stresses in a statement, the IRGC violates human rights, not only in Iran, but also in Syria and Ukraine, a country that is suffering major attacks with Iranian drones provided by Tehran to Russia. 

AFP/FREDERICK FLORIN - Thousands take part in a rally against the Iranian regime in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg

The alliance of young Iranians created during the current protests also refers to corruption within the corps, including its alleged involvement in drug and arms trafficking and money laundering. "The IRGC's actions bring nothing but pain, death and corruption to the Middle East and the world," the statement stressed. For this reason, Syrian and Ukrainian citizens have also backed the move and are calling for the IRGC to be designated as a terrorist group. 

Members of the Association of Families of Victims of flight PS752, which was shot down by the IRGC with two surface-to-air missiles as it took off from Tehran on 8 January 2020, have also come to the French city of Strasbourg. "The acts of terrorism committed by the IRGC are innumerable," the association said.

Iranian actresses such as Golshifteh Farahani, Nazanin Boniadi and celebrity activist Masih Alinejad have also called on the international community to list the Iranian body as a terrorist organisation. 

"We are coming together to make Iranian women and men heard in Europe and to ask the European Parliament to continue to be on the right side of history," said Swedish MEP Alireza Akhondi, one of the organisers of the demonstration. "Without Europe's help, without us to be their voice, there will be no revolution in Iran," he added.

On this point many Iranians in the diaspora agree, calling on European media and citizens to continue to give a voice to their compatriots in the country.  

Criticism of Tehran's foreign policy 

As Iranians around the world call on the international community to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organisation, former Iranian diplomats have begun to criticise the current foreign policy pursued by the regime in Tehran.

The diplomats emphasise the stalling of talks to revive the nuclear deal, as well as the supply of drones to Russia during its invasion of Ukraine. Both, they warn, could further isolate and weaken Iran economically.  

Hamid Aboutalebi, a former political adviser to former president Hassan Rohani, noted on Twitter that "Iran's foreign policy has been "captured by extremists". On the other hand, Nosratollah Tajik, former ambassador to Jordan, said that Iran's current stance on the war in Ukraine "will lead to Iran's economic collapse, create more public discontent and challenge the government's authority to resolve political, social and financial problems", according to The Guardian

The British newspaper also reports statements by Seyyid Mohammad Sadr, former head of the Foreign Ministry's Europe division, and Jalal Sadatian, a former senior Iranian diplomat in the UK in the 1980s. According to Sadr, the Iranian government squandered 'a golden opportunity' to revive the nuclear deal.