As state security forces in Iran use potentially lethal force against civilian protestors for the second time in less than two months, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) calls upon the EU to exercise its role as a key interlocutor with Iran to urge the authorities there to cease violent acts against the protestors, respect Iranians’ right to peaceful protest, and guarantee that their safety will be protected.

Videos that the Center for Human Rights in Iran has obtained from reliable sources inside Iran and which have been verified show state forces using tear gas against protesting civilians and also appear to show security forces using live ammunition against the protestors.

“The EU should not remain silent in the face of state violence against protestors. Such silence gives a green light for the violent suppression of civilians exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly,” said Hadi Ghaemi, CHRI executive director.

The protestors took to the streets after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) admitted it was responsible for accidentally shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on January 8, which killed 176 people, after denying any involvement for 3 days.

The protests, while triggered by outrage over the loss of life and the attempted cover-up, reflect intensifying public outrage over political repression, state impunity for rights violations, the lack of transparency and accountability, and the overall political and economic mismanagement of the country.

There is a threat of more loss of life in Iran at present if protests continue. More than 300—possibly significantly more—civilians were killed by state security forces in the protests that broke out in November 2019 after the government announced a gasoline price hike. Officials still have not released any numbers for those killed or injured and there has been no accountability for the use of live ammunition against unarmed protestors and bystanders despite broad international condemnation of the state’s violence.

Yet so far, the response from Europe has been limited. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted on January 13, “We are following the protests in Tehran very closely. People have the right to freedom of expression without reprisals & persecution. Iran would do well to make sure incidents from past demonstrations do not happen again.”

A January 13 joint France, UK and Germany statement, however, made no reference to the state’s violent response to the protests, mentioning only concern over upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal and regional security, and on January 14, the three countries issued a statement focused exclusively on the nuclear deal, indicating it was triggering the JCPOA’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism because Iran was no longer in compliance with the JCPOA. UK foreign ministry tweets, meanwhile, have only urged a transparent investigation into the downing of the jetliner and criticism over the temporary detainment of the British ambassador in Iran. To date, no EU statement on the protests has been forthcoming.

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