London, 9 May – A British lawmaker has argued that Britain can no longer ignore Iran’s horrific record of human rights abuses.
In an op-ed for Conservative Home, Mike Freer, the Conservative candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, wrote that the UK has neglected the issue of human rights in Iran ever since it signed the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, and accused the UK of putting trade at the forefront of negotiations with Iran, rather than human rights.
He wrote: “Has the post-Brexit Britain left the UK so eager for new trading partners that policy makers are willing to overlook Iran’s behaviour – all for the sake of retaining Tehran’s interest in British investment?”
Freer notes that the attitudes of the Regime have not softened, and will not soften, as a result of British investment, and warned that increasing Iranian influence may lead to disaster for Britain and its allies.
He wrote: “[The Regime] will not be content to simply embrace investment from Western partners that are relatively uncritical of the Islamic Republic. Rather, they will strive to exert power over the UK and its close partners, in keeping with the mullahs’ self-perception as a bulwark against Western influence in the Middle East. Indeed, this sort of power play has already been evident in Iran’s behaviour since the conclusion of nuclear negotiations.”
Freer argued that the Iranian Regime has already attempted to provoke the UK and other Western governments through its continued harassment of Western ships in the Persian Gulf, its ballistic missile tests and egregious human rights violations. He said that these moves were the Regime’s way of saying “If you want our trade, you have to accept our expansionist, brutal, war-mongering tendencies”.
Freer argued that the international community is proving to Iran that it values trade above democracy and human rights, every time that it doesn’t speak out against these provocations.
He warns that in the run-up to the elections, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has increased its arrest rate of political opponents, journalists, activists, and anyone considered a threat to the Regime.
Freer wrote: “So far, the UK government has put forth no recognisable effort to discourage Iran from its worsening crackdown. Neither has it pressured Tehran to safeguard the lives of other political prisoners already languishing in Iranian jails, many of whom have participated in a recent wave of hunger strikes, some of them lasting upwards of two months.”
He notes that the money funnelled in from foreign investments is ironically worsening the human rights situation in Iran because the mullahs’ now have more money to spend on arrests, torture, and persecution.
Freer, then posed the question: when will the West care? These violations are already affecting foreign nationals, like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British woman who was arrested while visiting family in Iran with her baby daughter, Gabriella. While Nazanin remains in jail, accused of spying for the UK, Gabriella is stuck in Iran, unable to return home to her dad.
Freer wrote: “The kidnapping of a child is hardly beyond the pale for a regime that remains not only unrepentant but actually boastful about the mass execution of 30,000 political prisoners affiliated with the Iranian opposition in the summer of 1988. But the kidnapping of a child and mass executions are intolerable, regardless of what we stand to gain.”
He advised that the British Government should blacklist the IRGC as a terror organisation and increase sanctions against it, in order to reduce the oppression in Iran.