Davos hears calls from Iranian women for more western action against regime

Activists argue current sanctions are not enough to deter Tehran from further brutality

British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi said women in Iran need the support of the international community amid ongoing protests. Getty
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Iranian female activists have told the World Economic Forum in Davos it is high time the EU and the G7 tightened the screws on the hardline regime over its torture and execution of peaceful protesters.

The international response to Tehran’s human rights abuse was on Tuesday the subject of a frank discussion at the global gathering in the Swiss ski resort, where delegates heard clarion calls for the West to step up.

Five months on from the onset of the mass anti-government protests in the isolated nation, authorities continue to detain citizens who are calling for basic freedom.

Nazanin Boniadi, an Iranian-British actress and activist, said women spanning several generations were spearheading the uprising in Iran.

“That is contagious, that courage is contagious,” she said, referring to the power of mothers to influence their sons.

That Iranian women tend to be more educated than men is “testament to their tenacity and [has served as] a driving force to this precise moment”, she said.

Ms Boniadi, who was born in Tehran and raised in London, has featured in films such as Iron Man and Hotel Mumbai and the TV series The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power.

She said the Iranian diaspora spread across the world must not underestimate the great leveraging power it holds in exerting pressure on governments to punish Iran for its actions.

The award-nominated actress said “we have a lot of power that we haven’t tapped into” and encouraged Iranians around the world to use their voice to engage with leaders.

Masih Alinejad has been the subject of murder plots in the US. Photo: Masih Alinejad via AP

On Tuesday, about 12,000 people marched to the EU Parliament in the eastern French city of Strasbourg in support of Iran’s anti-government protesters, while the Eiffel Tower lit the night with the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”, which embodies the protest movement spilling beyond Iran.

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist, said at Davos the EU and the G7 should adopt a heavier-handed approach to Iran after the regime’s brutal attempts to silence protesters.

She urged the G7 — made up of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, the US and the UK — to “recall their ambassador and kick out Iranian diplomats” to send a resounding message to the regime that its conduct is intolerable.

Equally, Alinejad said the EU should pressure its 27 member states to recall their ambassadors to Iran “when innocent protesters are [being] hanged”.

“The world must take action now,” she said.

The European Parliament’s plenary session is this week to debate the EU’s response to the protests and executions in Iran.

A vote for a non-binding resolution is to take place on Thursday, which protesters and others see as a chance to put the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the EU’s terrorist list.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) said in a report the UK should proscribe the IRGC with immediate effect. Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the UK would consider further steps against Iran after the execution of British-Iranian dual citizen Ali Reza Akbari on spying charges, but stopped short of proscribing the group. He travelled to Washington where he will meet US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for talks on Wednesday, in which Iran and Ukraine will be on the agenda.

Alinejad has in recent years been an outspoken critic of the Iranian government.

Despite being the subject of murder plots in the US, where she lives, she continues to oppose the regime in her native Iran vociferously.

She also called on governments to designate the IRGC — which has been accused of trying to silence dissidents as part of a wider strategy, including threatening journalists in London — a terrorist organisation.

“This is the time that the EU must put the Revolutionary Guards on the terrorist list,” Alinejad said.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, told reporters on the sidelines in Davos: "The reaction of Iran regime is atrocious and horrible and they are trampling over fundamental human rights.

"We are looking indeed at a new round of sanctions and I would support also listing the Revolutionary Guards. I have heard several ministers asking for that and I think they are right."

Alinejad also questioned why Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were able to have Instagram accounts while so many citizens are banned from using such tools to communicate with the outside world.

She urged the powers operating such influential platforms to “kick them out from social media” in a bid to delegitimise their authority.

Eiffel Tower lights up to support Iranian activists - in pictures

Updated: January 17, 2023, 5:29 PM