An online business forum that aims to promote trade between Iran and the European Union continued for a second day on Tuesday amid outcry from rights activists and families of prisoners in Iran who say such events “normalize” Tehran’s human rights abuses.
The Europe-Iran Business Forum, an online three-day event, started on Monday “despite efforts to downgrade the event,” Iran’s state-run Press TV said.
It was initially scheduled for December 2020 but was postponed at the last minute after senior European diplomats withdrew their participation over Iran’s execution of Iranian dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam.
Their withdrawal came after a campaign by Iranian activists calling for a boycott of the forum. They argued such events only benefit the Iranian regime and “normalize” its suppression of dissent.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, and a number of European envoys to Tehran were scheduled to speak at the event in December but are missing from the speakers’ list this time around.
Families of dual-nationals in prison in Iran launched the hashtag #EuropeIranHostageForum in recent days to express their opposition to the event, which they say encourages Tehran to continue taking hostages as bargaining chips.
Iran has been using foreigners and dual nationals as barganing chips for years. This must end.#EuropeIranHostageForum #FreeFariba— Free Fariba Adelkhah (@FaribaRoland) March 1, 2021
#FreeAhmadreza #FreeKamranGhaderi #FreeNahid #FreeJamshidSharmahd #FreeMassud #FreeAnoosheh #FreeKameel #FreeNazanin #FreeAras #FreeThemAll pic.twitter.com/u1UhyuTsjU
Several dual and foreign nationals are currently under arrest in Iran.
Regime critics accuse Tehran of arresting foreign nationals on trumped-up charges and using them as hostages in an effort to win concessions from other countries.
On Friday, over a dozen members of the European Parliament also urged EU officials not to attend the controversial event due to Iran’s human rights abuses.
#Iran has the highest rate of #executions per capita. In many cases the #deathpenalties are executed after flagrantly unfair trials marred by #torture-tainted confessions. Therefore we call on the 🇪🇺 leadership to condition relations with 🇮🇷 on its observance of human rights. pic.twitter.com/4r4yTYwOhO— Anna Fotyga - Biuro Poselskie (@AnnaFotyga_PE) February 26, 2021
The letter also referred to the recent conviction of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled opposition group in France.