Statement by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in the Bundestag on the motion put forward by the SPD, Alliance 90/The Greens and the FDP: support the protest movement in Iran, increase pressure on the regime in Tehran

09.11.2022 - Speech

Jina Mahsa Amini was 22 years old when she was killed. Abolfazl Adinezadeh was 17 when he skipped school to take part in protests in the Iranian city of Mashhad. At his funeral, his father asked what crime his son had committed to be shot in the stomach with 24 birdshot. Nika Shakarami was 16 when she was killed during protests in Tehran. Mohammad Rakhshani and Omid Sarani from Sistan and Baluchistan were just 12 and 13 respectively – children. Minoo Majidi was 62 and Kurdish. A photo of her daughter at her graveside has been viewed around the world. The daughter stands with her head shaved and bare. Her eyes bore into your soul.

Killed, torn from their families’ sides: Mahsa, Abolfazl, Nika, Mohammad, Omid and Minoo. They are six of an estimated 300 and more people who have been killed and torn from their families’ sides, because they stood up for something that we take for granted – the right to freely determine their own lives, the right to live in dignity.

For almost two months now, men and women have been taking to the streets to fight for these rights. Over 14,000 people have been arrested or kidnapped, and the regime has also threatened protesters with the death penalty. In view of this vehemence, this brutality, admonitions are not enough, and I don’t understand how you can argue about tweets now.

I think that responsible politics requires us to analyse, strategically and honestly – I’m looking at the honourable gentlemen of the CDU – how we can stand by these people, and it’s not by making promises from the safety of this Chamber!

You haven’t named any of these people in all your words on this subject.

And do you know what? I have thought long and hard about whether I should respond to your statement. Your statement was heard around the world – as words spoken in a free parliament should be. And so I do want to respond to the particular points you made.

Why do we take the time to adopt sanctions? Because, thank goodness, we live in a democracy, in a state governed by the rule of law, because we live in our shared European Union in a way that the people of Iran would like to live. And do you know what? I don’t want a single person on our sanctions list to be removed from it, as has happened with the Russian listings. We have strict rules on this subject.

You asked why I am consulting with the other Europeans, why I’m waiting, why I don’t storm ahead like the Canadians. – Because everything has to be legally watertight. You’re a lawyer. You know that our legal system differs in some ways from the US and Canadian systems. If I want each and every person to be held accountable, it is not enough to reel off random figures here in the Chamber. When I promise the courageous men and women in Iran that I will stand by their side, I want to be sure that I do stand by their side in a legally watertight manner, together with the other Europeans.

You asked what we have done in the last nine days with regard to terrorism listings. Let me tell you: it was a risky to talk about that, because our understanding of the law is very different from Donald Trump’s when it comes to terrorism listings. I think that it’s important to have this out in the open, in order to spell it out - that as I understand it, as a politician, such listings are for terrorist activities against your own population.

You’re the lawyer, you should know how terror listings in Europe work. The German Foreign Minister can’t simply say, “in my personal opinion these people are terrorists and so that’s what we’re going to do in Europe.” We have to look at the legal situation - and I’d be happy to do that with you. Many other Europeans may come to other legal conclusions.

And you know what? This sounds a bit as if a woman is having to justify herself - but I’m used to that by now.

You asked why Agnieszka Brugger asked why the Ambassador was summoned. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Iranian Foreign Minister complained about the German Foreign Minister to High Representative Borrell?

To put it totally undiplomatically, if we want to stand by the men and women of Iran, it is up to us to pull together and be honest, as we were for the brave people of Belarus, about our issues, our measures, because we can't simply come in from outside and intervene in another country's affairs. There are things we would like to do, but some of them are not possible in this field of international relations and because we must respect the law.

At first you said you were critical of that part of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and then you said that somehow you weren’t criticising it. The German Government cannot afford to take a position like that. That is why I would today like to state emphatically and unequivocally why it is so important to the German Government that this regime, which questions Israel’s right to exist, never acquire a nuclear arsenal.

I have repeatedly made it clear that there will be no negotiations. We underscored that in Münster at the G7 Meeting. I will never give this regime a blank cheque and say now we will somehow after all tolerate nuclear enrichment by Iran. No. All nuclear enrichment must be stopped, bearing in mind Israel’s right to exist and in order to protect the people of Iran.

I cannot promise anyone that this will all work. The reality is that we just don’t know. Politics is complicated, external affairs in particular, and in this situation we are supporting the people of Iran from outside. I don’t know – I don’t believe anyone knows, not even you – what the regime will do next.

But what I do know is that we will not let up. We will try every day to get more sanctions adopted.

At the moment, I’m working my fingers to the bone phoning around to get the Human Rights Council to activate the accountability mechanism at long last. There, too, you can ask if it will work. I simply do not know. The resolution on Xinjiang didn’t get through the Human Rights Council. But what that shows is how important it is for us to fight the good fight every day, because all human rights activists know how important it is to the victims for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

That is why – to conclude –we will stand by the strong men and women of Iran for as long as necessary.

We will spread their voices across the world. Their names are Mahsa. Nika. Mohammad. Omid. Minoo. At least 30 of them are children, and they are stronger than any injustice or violence.

Thank you very much.


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