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The Free Iran World Summit 2019

Former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt Speech to the Conference, “Iran Uprising, Role of Women and Youths, and Prospects of a Democratic Republic”

Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt
Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt

During an international conference convened in Brussels on September 15, commemorating the 2022 uprising in Iran, former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, stood among the notable attendees who addressed the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s members and supporters.

Mr. Verhofstadt underscored the profound historical roots of the Iranian uprising, spanning four decades. He highlighted that what initially began as a protest against the oppression of women had, over time, evolved into a broader challenge to the entire ruling establishment.

Furthermore, the former Belgian Prime Minister expressed strong criticism for the European Union’s official policy of engaging critically with the Iranian regime, emphasizing the need for the EU to embrace a strategy aimed at facilitating a change in the regime.

The full text of Mr. Guy Verhofstadt speech follows:

Thank you very much. Mrs. Rajavi, thank you very much for the invitation. It’s not the first time that I have been together with you, but let’s say today is a very important moment, because one year after the death of Masha Amini, killed by the morality police of Iran for not wearing the headscarf properly. I think that since that date last year, we have seen something historical in Iran, something that has never happened before, all these women and men taking the streets to protest against the Mullah regime.

And let’s first of all, ladies and gentlemen, recognize that in fact, it was not a sudden or a ruthless or a spontaneous event. It was more an explosion, an eruption of a whole population of all Iranian people because they are angry, angry against the regime, angry against the atrocities that for more than 40 years have been done by the Mullahs in Iran.

And at the same time, it was also, I think, the result of 40 years, more than 40 years of courageous, organized resistance against the Mullah regime, a struggle in which women have taken the lead.

And while the demonstrations initially, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, targeted the oppression of women, the focus of the demonstrations expanded very fast to demands for reform, for justice, and for fundamental political, economic, and social change.

So people sang in the beginning, “women, life, freedom,” but they also sang “No to the oppressor whether it is the Shah or the Mullah.”

I think you have now to give me a little bit more time, because in any way that slogan together with “women, life, freedom,” captured the real essence, I would say, of the deep discontent with the daily terror, with the tyranny of the Mullahs and also with the enormous social economic bankruptcy of a whole society, vibrant society in Iran.

And today, one year after the brutal killing of Masha Amini, in fact, what we can say is that the conditions are not the same. No, the conditions have further deteriorated for the people in Iran, because demonstrators and demonstrations are brutally cracked down every day by security forces in Iran.

Many hundred men or women and even young children have since then been killed, murdered, many executed, more than 600 in one year, and they were not criminals for drugs. It was people who were protesting, political opponents who had been executed, and many thousands of people, peaceful demonstrators, who were facing time in prison.

And now that the 16th of September is approaching, what is happening is that family members are intimidated, are arrested for the moment, at this quiet moment, just to prevent them from mourning at the graves of the victims.

And the moral police, well, the moral police is back from never being gone with new laws, new laws that have been approved through the same parliament to further oppress girls and women.

And in the meanwhile, economically, it’s a disaster. The inflation rate today in Iran is nearly 50%. And decent food, you cannot find it anymore. Medicines are not affordable anymore. And let’s say it because we have to be critical of ourselves.

That is, that 12 months ago, the whole Western world was watching with admiration the images of women dancing in the streets in Tehran. And we praised them for their courage. And we told them, all of them could count on us. But the reality is, and the answer that we have to respond to today is, what have we really done to help these brave people realize their dream of a free and democratic Iran?

And my answer today after one year is, well, not so much have we done in one year. It’s not enough to say that we are working on Iran. It’s not enough to say that the EU will raise the issue every time that there is a contact with an official of the Iranian authorities.

I think that only illustrates our impotence. And moreover, this approach always turns out wrong, because time and time again, the silence and inaction of the EU and the Western world gives in fact Iran a free pass to cling to their reign of terror.

So this so-called policy and strategy of critical engagement is in fact purely symbolic, what we have seen the last year. And it has to be changed by another strategy. A strategy of change of the regime. That has to be our strategy, not a strategy of critical engagement.

So, I said that last week, a few days ago, to Mr. Borrell, the High Representative, directly in a plenary session of the European Parliament, and I said for the first time, I have to tell you Mr. Borrell, the whole houses are against you on your Iran strategy. The left, the right, the north, the south, the center.

The reality is, again, critical engagement doesn’t mean anything if it is not in fact embedded in a strategy of change in Iran. And what does it mean, a strategy of change in Iran?

In my opinion, there are five things that Europe needs to do. First of all, is to engage with all the democratic opposition, especially the NCRI, to prepare for the future. First thing to do.

And not to take stupid conclusions from the European Parliament and Mrs. Rookmaker on this issue. Second, what we need to do is immediately expand the list of those subject to sanctions. Do you know how many people in Iran are under European sanctions? 226. 226 people are under sanctions of the European Union for abuses of human rights, while the abuses of human rights done in Iran are made by thousands and thousands of men on every level in Iranian society. They all need to be sanctioned, not 226.

Do you know how many Iranians are under the sanctions regime because they are helping, in fact, to transfer military equipment to Russia, which is doing a brutal invasion? 12 people. 12 Iranians are only implicated in the transfer of military equipment, drones and missiles, and other military equipment to Russia and to Putin. It’s ridiculous, such a policy.

And we need, in fact, to tackle all fanatics who are preparing to kill innocent citizens and to freeze all their assets, prevent them from traveling, and prevent them from hunting down Iranians in exile.

The third element of such a new strategy for Europe needs to be that we have to take a position about Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. How many times, how many years it will take to finally put them on the blacklist as a terrorist organization, what they are, dear friends?

The fourth element of such a strategy of change is, in my opinion, that we have already long requested the establishment of an international, independent, investigated body about all atrocities in Iran because that would finally give the opportunity to prosecute the architects and perpetrators of the genocide of 1988 and of all those that happened afterward during the popular protests.

And then finally, my fifth point is, let’s stop being naïve. And that counts not only for the Europeans, that counts also, I think, for the administration, the American administration, about the possible breakthrough in the negotiations of a so-called nuclear deal.

We must stop wasting energy on a regime that continues, in fact, to enrich uranium, of which we know that they will never honor their commitment. That’s a waste of time, such a search for a nuclear deal.

On top of that, a regime that is now supplying weapons to Russia. So, as I said, and that is my conclusion, I made all these demands last week to Josep Borrell, the High Representative, asking him to drastically change strategy. And that with the support of the left, the right, the center, so nearly unanimously.

And the strategy needs to be, and the strategy that we will follow in the Parliament, is that we want in two months, in November, a new debate with Borrell to see if there is a real change in the strategy of the European Union, and of the West in general, towards Iran.

So, dear Mrs. Rajavi, this Saturday, exactly one year after this brutal murder and the start of this, let’s say, the revolution in Iran, I think it’s also the moment for us to turn the tide. It’s our duty to help the bravest people on earth, and the bravest people on earth are the Iranians. Thank you very much.

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Former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt Speech to the Conference, “Iran Uprising, Role of Women and Youths, and Prospects of a Democratic Republic”