Thousands of Europe-based Iranians, including relatives of victims of repression in the Islamic republic, lawmakers and campaigners, on Saturday urged the EU at a rally in Paris to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a “terror” group.
Speakers at the rally at Place Vauban in the heart of the French capital insisted that such a listing for the Guards was the biggest contribution EU ministers could make to help the protest movement that erupted in September.
The demonstrators chanted the slogan of the protest movement “Woman. Life. Freedom” and one of its anthems the song “Bella Ciao” as well as slogans against the Islamic republic.
“The main goal is to make EU ministers finally hear the voices of the Iranians,” Swedish MP Alireza Akhondi, a prominent voice in the campaign, told AFP on the sidelines of the rally before giving an impassioned speech in Persian.
“We want to the Revolutionary Guards to be labelled as a terror group. It is the key point,” he said, saying he was “disappointed” with progress so far.
The protesters also urged European countries to cut economic ties with Iran over the crackdown on the protest movement, brandishing the slogan “your economic interests shed the blood of our innocent youth” against the background of EU, French and German flags.
The rally came as Iran marked 44 years since the Islamic revolution that ousted the shah with pro-regime rallies inside the country.
– ‘Proud of you’ –
Prominent French Green MP Yannick Jadot told the crowds there should be “no European ambassadors in Tehran” and that the “Revolutionary Guards are terrorists and should be listed as such”.
The Guards are the branch of the Iranian armed forces entrusted with ensuring the security of the regime. They are accused by campaigners of rights abuses against protesters and prisoners.
Many protesters sported eyepatches or red make-up streaming from their eyes in reference to accusations security forces fired into the faces of protesters.
The protests, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested for allegedly violating the dress code for women, have subsided in the last months but the opposition insists they still pose an unprecedented challenge to the regime.
The rally was addressed by the daughter of the France-based blogger Ruhollah Zam who was executed by Iran in 2020 after being lured from Paris to Iraq where he was abducted by Iranian security forces.
“Ruhollah Zam was the definition of the word freedom,” said Niaz Zam, who was just 15 at the time of her father’s execution which outraged campaigners.
When Iran executed a total of four prisoners over the protests “we were killed a second time but we were not scared”, she said, making her first ever public comments after her father’s hanging.
Among at least a dozen people who according to the Iranian judiciary still risk the death penalty is the rapper Toomaj Salehi who backed the protests and was arrested in October charged with capital crimes.
“There is no place for tears. You are amazing. We are all very proud of you,” his cousin, who gave her name as Shabnam, told the rally.