Iran’s Zarif slams Europe and US for human rights scrutiny

Iranian FM escalates a war of words between the Iran and Europe after criticism.

Iran''s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda
'You assisted Saddam with $75bn … and now you make claims?' Iran's Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif challenges European powers [File: Dalati Nohra via Reuters]

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has made fiery remarks in what seems to be a direct jab at Europe and the United States for pressuring Iran on purported human rights abuses.

Last week, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, together known as the E3, summoned Iranian ambassadors to their countries in a coordinated diplomatic protest of Iran’s treatment of dual nationality and political prisoners.

Shortly after, Germany issued a critical statement on Iran to the United Nations Human Rights Council of behalf of 47 countries, while UN rights experts reportedly demanded the unconditional release of imprisoned prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

On Monday, the last day of the week in which Iran annually commemorates the sacrifices made during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that ended with UN mediation in 1988, the Iranian foreign minister tore into those European powers.

“You assisted Saddam with $75bn … and now you make claims?” he said during a ceremony to commemorate those who laid down their lives during the 1980-1988 war, which began when a then-Western-backed Saddam Hussein invaded Iran.

Zarif continued by saying the Iraqi dictator’s backers gave him aircraft and chemical weapons to topple the newly formed nation.

“Chemical weapons from Germany and Netherlands were given to Saddam to use against the Iranian people,” the diplomat said, asking: “And now you claim to be civilised?

“History has not forgotten your crimes. The Iranian people will not forget these crimes. You participated in crimes against the Iranian nation and now you claim of [championing] human rights? You committed crimes against humanity.”

A number of dual nationality citizens, including British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and French-Iranian Fariba Adelkhah, are imprisoned in Iran on charges of working against Iranian national security.

European countries claim they are being arbitrarily held, often under harsh conditions without justification. Iran does not recognise dual nationality status.

In his speech, the Iranian foreign minister also referred to the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq by a US drone strike in early January.

“You say you destroyed Daesh, but you martyred Daesh enemy number one with savagery and abjection,” Zarif said in reference to the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.

US ‘savagery’

Zarif’s remarks come days after foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh also took aim at the E3 for summoning Iranian ambassadors, branding the move a targeted attempt at smearing Iran’s human rights record.

“We believe that politicking and selective actions by the US and a number of European governments has damaged human rights the most,” he said.

Khatibzadeh said the E3 move amounts to meddling in Iranian affairs, adding Iran finds it strange that Europe has “not only had a reaction toward the egregious violation of human rights of the Iranian nations by the anti-human ‘maximum pressure’ policy of the US and its cruel and anti-human sanctions, but are also practically enabling it and are party to it through their inaction”.

On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the US of “savagery” in reference to its harsh campaign of unilateral sanctions that have hugely affected the Iranian economy.

Source: Al Jazeera