An Iranian View to European Parliament’s Recent Resolution on Iran

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review

On the last day of March 2014, the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs released a draft resolution entitled the “European Union’s Strategy towards Iran,” and put the text of the draft resolution on the website of the European Union (EU). The contents and tone of the resolution and its coincidence with the measures taken by the Iranian government to improve relations with the European Union, frequent visits to the Islamic Republic of Iran by representatives of various European countries, and the fragile atmosphere of optimism resulting from the aforesaid developments caused the draft resolution, unlike previous resolutions adopted by the European Parliament (EP), to draw serious attention from all quarters while eliciting negative reactions both among high-ranking Iranian officials and the country’s mass media. However, in parallel to the critical views, there has been another different viewpoint in Iran whose proponents argue that the EP resolution should be taken lightly and considered as an ordinary issue in order to control domestic reactions to it. Of course, the latter viewpoint has drawn far less attention in comparison with the first one.

Although the entire text of the draft resolution drawn up by the EP’s Committee on Foreign Affairs consisted of about 49 opening and executive paragraphs, two paragraphs in this document were especially instrumental in eliciting the strong reaction of the Iranian officials. Those two specific paragraphs underlined that “presidential elections in Iran were not held in accordance with the democratic standards valued by the EU,” and that “EP delegations to Iran should be committed to meeting members of the political opposition and civil society activists.” Of course, the public opinion in Iran is generally and naturally unaware of the entire content and text of such resolutions as many people are not willing to read them. Given the fact that the overall course and results of Iran's presidential elections last year were generally hailed as a cause of pride for all Iranians, such baseless claims, which aim to cast doubt on the credibility of presidential elections in Iran, has convinced the Iranian nation that these resolutions actually aim to pave the way for the Europeans to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

In view of the above facts, there are three short notes on this resolution which should be mentioned here:

1. In Iranian mentality, and perhaps on a larger scale in the general mentality that is rife throughout the Middle East and the Eastern countries, allegations made by the European states or the United States in apparent defense of human rights are considered ridiculous, untrustworthy, and incorrect. Even in the most optimistic state, such allegations are looked upon with extreme doubt and suspicion. It would suffice to simply talk to an Iranian, Egyptian, Afghan, Iraqi, Bahraini, Pakistani or any citizen from other Eastern countries and ask them about their viewpoint about the European Union’s allegations on the situation of human rights in their respective countries. The possibility that you may hear those people lauding and admiring EU’s claims is quite low. Perhaps there are many activists and advocates of human rights in those countries who are working round the clock to improve human rights standards in their countries. However, the bitter memories of colonialism in the past and the double standards that are currently being applied to human rights issue by the United States and the European countries, especially when it comes to oil and energy exports as well as arms sales, constitute the main obstacles which prevent citizens of these countries from believing the West’s claims on defending human rights as truthful and honest. Therefore, most human rights activists in the aforesaid countries prefer to go on with their own human rights activities without any affiliation to Western individuals, nongovernmental organizations and state institutions which claim to be human rights advocates.

2. From 2009 up to the present time, at least, seven human rights-related resolutions have been adopted by the European Parliament against the Islamic Republic. The tone and contents of almost all of them were stronger, and in other words, more interventionist than the new resolution. However, none of them evoked such a sharp reaction from Iranian officials and people. Perhaps the worst damage which was done by the new resolution was to do away with the general atmosphere of optimism that had taken shape within the Iranian public opinion toward Europe. At any rate, maybe such an apparently negative development would be followed by positive consequences in that it can make Iranians take more cautious steps in the face of the real conditions which govern international relations.

3. It is almost certain that the latest EP resolution will have no negative impact on the nuclear talks [between Iran and the six world powers]. Both sides are fully aware that if they actually aim to find a final solution to Iran's nuclear issue, they have to focus on this issue and do not pay undue attention to unrelated developments. On the other hand, it is clear that the overall tone of the latest EP resolution on Iran is, in many cases, inclined to intervention in the country’s internal affairs and it would have been better if the resolution had been formulated using more respectful literature. However, if at the end of the day, it prompts the Islamic Republic and the European Union to resume their human rights dialogue, it will be worth consideration. This request has been included in the text of the resolution by the European Parliament. Therefore, if the Iranians – including academic and nongovernmental institutions as well as official and governmental ones – enter into a human rights dialogue with the European Union, it will certainly reduce the possibility of political manipulation of human rights concept in interactions between the two sides. As a human rights researcher, I am quite certain of the reality that many viewpoints held both in Iran and Europe about the other side’s approach to human rights are based on misunderstanding, unfamiliarity with the philosophy of human rights concept cherished by either side, as well as unawareness of how the principles of human rights are enforced by either side and the real method used for this purpose. At any rate, Iran and Europe had a preliminary experience in this regard during the 1990s and the early 2000s by engaging first in “critical dialogue” and then in “constructive dialogue,” which was an even better experience. However, due to politicization of the whole process, that dialog failed to reach its ultimate goal. Initiation of the second round of the human rights dialogue on the basis of mutual respect can be a good beginning for the two sides to usher in a new era of scientific cooperation pivoted around the concept of human rights.

Key Words: Resolution, European Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Iran’s Presidential Elections, Human Rights, Nongovernmental Organizations, State Institutions, Iranian Public Opinion, Golshanpazhooh

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*Photo Credit: Press TV, The Iran Project