The Scottish National Party strongly condemn the suppression of the Iranian people by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its fostering of terrorism and destabilisation in the wider region.
Currently, the Iranian regime has sanctions placed upon it by the UK Government but its resistance force, the IRGC is not fully proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK Home Office.
I agree that the current Iranian regime is a threat not only to the Iranian people and economy but also to the stability in the region and peace in the world.
The Court of Appeal in Antwerp, Belgium, recently upheld the sentences against three Iranian terrorists who, together with an Iranian diplomat, had been convicted of terrorism by attempting to bomb a gathering of the Iranian pro-democracy opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in Paris in June 2018.
I am concerned of the extent to which the Iranian regime misuses its embassies and diplomatic missions abroad to launch terror attacks against the pro-democracy opposition and pays huge sums in cash to recruit agents to facilitate terror attacks.
The Iranian regime plays a prominent role in exporting and supporting terrorism in the Middle East and across the world through its extraterritorial force, Qods Force, and in the internal repression of the Iranian people.
I also note that the IRGC carries out acts of violence, human rights violations and suppression against protesters in Iran.
I am troubled by the fact that the IRGC provides political, financial and military support to several militant and proscribed groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, militias in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen.
Such activity compromises the region’s security and ability to prosper. It also escalates tensions which are already bubbling under the surface in these politically volatile settings.
We note that the US authorities have taken the decision to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organisation. We call on the UK Home Office to go beyond sanctions, and to reconsider its decision whether to fully proscribe the organisation.
SNP MPs in Westminster have signed Early Day Motions in the House of Commons to this effect, calling on the UK Government to impose punitive measures against IRGC officials and to work with allies to expel the IRGC from Syria, Iraq and across the entire Middle East.
This was recommended by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in its report of 8 December 2020, but the UK Government has a habit of failing to fully implement recommendations from Select Committee Reports, most notably the Russia Report of 2020 and the Moscow’s Gold Report of 2018.
Restricting the IRGC's resources and funds are in the long-term interest of the Iranian people as well as regional peace and security.
The Office for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, in conjunction with the Home Office and the Intelligence Services, should urgently come to the House of Commons and make a statement of the possibility of Iran being engaged in espionage and terrorism in the UK through its embassy, intelligence operatives and diplomats and provide detail on what it is doing to counter that threat.
We should be working closely with our European allies to identify the regime's agents and sleeper cells with a view to expelling them from the UK and Europe. Because European and regional security is jeopardised by their activities, we must do all we can to identify and dismantle the IRGC’s network.
Aside from the JCPOA talks, we urge the UK Government to work with our European allies to downgrade diplomatic relations with Tehran until the regime provides verifiable assurances and guarantees that it will not misuse its diplomatic missions and diplomats for terrorism.
As I'm sure you are aware, on 16th September, as she was shopping with relatives in Tehran, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was detained by Iran’s notorious ‘morality police’ for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely. Police officers then reportedly beat her head with a baton, banged her head against one of their police vehicles, and “tortured and insulted” her, leading to her falling into a coma in police custody and later dying in hospital.
The world has seen the distressing images of Mahsa - seriously injured and in a coma - in hospital. It is sickening that such brutality was carried out by the apparatus of the Iranian Government.
In solidarity with our Iranian friends, the international community must call out Mahsa's ordeal for what it was - the state-sanctioned femicide of a young Kurdish woman.
The official definition of 'femicide' is as follows: "the killing of a woman or girl because of her gender, usually by a man." This is exactly what happened to Mahsa - murdered by a regime policing her behaviour and inflicting punishment because of how she presented herself as a woman in public.
Mahsa's femicide has sparked outrage across Iran, and the largest anti-government movement in years is spreading throughout the country. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, social class, and political affiliation, citizens from Iran’s 31 provinces are taking to the streets to voice their anger and outrage at the Iranian regime. Clashes between civilians and security forces are widespread, and the authorities this week have reported that more than 40 people have been killed in the unrest. Security forces have even clashed with students at Tehran University in the past couple of days.
I am extremely concerned by the authorities' response to protestors. The Iranian Government has vowed to further crack down “with no leniency” on “those who oppose the country’s security and tranquillity” – an ominous indication of further mistreatment of demonstrators to come. As you say in your email, the regime has severely limited internet access and blocked instant messaging platforms, disrupting the sharing of information between people in Iran and the outside world.
Nevertheless, the bravery of Iranian citizens standing against brutality and dictatorship is inspiring. I stand in full solidarity with Iranian women, men, and young people calling for democratic change.
The SNP are a party of peace, diplomacy, and international law. We abhor acts of violence committed by any Government, and we call on leaders all around the world to uphold their international legal commitments to transparency, accountability, and protection of their people.
As a SNP MP in the House of Commons, I pledge to raise Mahsa Amini and ongoing protests with the UK Government. It is essential that Governments around the world speak with one voice - they must tell the Iranian regime that enough is enough, and urge them to stop their violent crackdowns of protestors.
On 22nd September, my SNP colleague Carol Monaghan MP spoke about Mahsa Amini in the House of Commons Chamber, saying: "The death of Mahsa Amini in Iran for allegedly breaking hijab rules was shocking, as was the Iranian authorities’ response to the subsequent protests. Can we have a statement from the Government on the support they are providing to human rights activists in Iran, including those who have to seek asylum here in the UK?" The UK Government has since encouraged MPs to apply for a House of Commons Debate on Mahsa Amini and the wave of protests.
Additionally, my colleague Alyn Smith MP (the SNP's Foreign Affairs Spokesperson in Westminster) wrote a letter to the Foreign Secretary last week to condemn Mahsa's femicide and to demand more action from the UK Government. In particular, he demanded to know what UK Embassy in Tehran doing to protect protestors (particularly women) in Iran, what they are doing to assist UK/dual nationals currently in Iran, and what steps UK diplomats are putting in place to support ethnic minorities (particularly Kurds) amidst increased regime crackdown. Mr Smith also demanded an urgent statement from the UK Government on Iran as soon as MPs return to Parliament after Conference Recess.
In the past, SNP MPs have co-sponsored and signed numerous Early Day Motions on human rights violations in Iran (including, for example, EDM 1030, EDM 615, EDM 592, and EDM 282 on the appointment of Ebrahim Raisi as President).
Furthermore, SNP MPs have raised Iranian human rights violations in the House of Commons on numerous occasions. Recently, Brendan O'Hara MP (SNP Spokesperson for International Human Rights) said in June 2022 on the topic of freedom of belief and religious expression: "I hope that the policymakers who gather in London next week are able to hear at first hand from the people in Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Myanmar, Xinjiang, Iran and elsewhere in the world who do not enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted."
Please rest assured that SNP MPs in Westminster will continue to do all we can to ensure that the UK Government condemns the actions of the Iranian regime in the strongest possible terms. We will continue to raise Mahsa's femicide, as well as the bravery of protestors across Iran.