FORMER political prisoners of Iran gathered outside Downing Street on Saturday to draw attention to the human-rights abuses perpetrated by Tehran, on the eve of the reopening of the British Embassy in the Iranian capital.
A letter delivered to the Prime Minister by the President of the Association of Iranian Political Prisoners (in Exile) warned of an “alarming rise in the number of executions in Iran during the last year, especially in the weeks following the nuclear deal with Iran”. It urged the British Government to condemn this “spike”, and to lobby the UN to take action on the regime’s human-rights abuses.
Iran has hanged more than 650 people this year, Human Rights Watch reports, including several who allegedly committed crimes as children.
The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, reopened the British Embassy in Iran on Sunday, four years after it was closed after being attacked by a mob. He is the first British Foreign Secretary to visit the capital in 12 years, and only the third British minister to visit since the 1979 revolution.
“Today’s ceremony marks the end of one long journey, and the start of a new and, I believe, exciting one,” he said. He had seen the relationship between the two countries “steadily improve” since the election of President Rouhani two years ago, and last month’s nuclear agreement (News, 24 July) was, he said, “another milestone”.
Iran was “an important country in a strategically important but volatile region”, he said, and he looked forward to future co-operation on tackling terrorism, IS, the drug trade, and migration.
Faraz Sanei, a researcher for Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, urged the international community to “remember that increasing economic, financial, and diplomatic integration with Iran will give them greater leverage not only to make lucrative business deals, but to speak out strongly against rights abuses”.