Iran: Protesters gather outside European Parliament, ask EU to do more

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By Méabh Mc Mahon
Protesters outside the European Parliament
Protesters outside the European Parliament   -   Copyright  Euronews

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the European Parliament this week, chanting "Woman. Life. Freedom," to remember the late 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini and call on the European Union to put pressure on the Iranian regime over her death in police custody.

Amini died after being detained by Iran's so-called "morality police" for allegedly wearing her headscarf improperly. Her death has fuelled widespread protests across Iran.

Protestors told Euronews the European Union should "put aside its economic interests and must think like any basic human being".

"This is about your hair too," one shop owner said, adding that Iranian women are fighting for the rights of women in Europe too.  

Mona Mir Sattari, 26, has become the face of the Brussels-based movement.

Born in raised in Belgium, she speaks Farsi, French, Flemish, Italian and English and spoke to the European Parliament sub-committee on human rights earlier this week. 

"We need the EU's support. Counter the shutdown of the Internet. Use new instruments of sanctions. Don’t let the people bear the burden of embargoes. Target the sanctions to the Iranian regime. We have seen that if the EU wants, the EU can," she told Members of the European Parliament.

She added that the death of Mahsa Amini was not an isolated phenomenon in Iran, that something has changed this time. 

"The people of Iran have been pushed to the limit. They are hungry, they are unemployed. The population feels like they have nothing to lose anymore. The young Iranians have no future perspectives.

"They are not scared anymore. They will continue to fight with strength and courage and we must continue supporting them together," she added. 

Mona's biggest inspiration is her dad, who has been protesting all his life. She dreams of visiting Iran one day with him, her home country that she has never been able to travel to. 

Also among the protestors was Selma Benkhelifa, a human rights and immigration lawyer who assists many women fleeing Iran as "they cannot support anymore that oppression of that morality police."

"I think that we have to support the women who are coming here, but also, and first of all, the women who are there and who are fighting for their rights to have a democracy in Iran and to allow them to stay in their own country," Benkhelifa told Euronews. 

For his part, the EU foreign affairs chief has condemned Iran’s "disproportionate use of force" and said all options would be on the table at an upcoming EU foreign affairs ministers meeting, including economic sanctions.

But Josep Borrell is also concerned about the Iran nuclear deal which he hopes to revive.

The landmark deal was struck in 2015, but hit a wall when US President Donald Trump took office and withdrew from the agreement.