Thousands of Iranians march through Brussels demanding stricter EU sanctions
More than 5,000 Iranians rallied today (20 February) in Brussels to call for the EU Council to list the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation.
As the country’s flags waved at the gates of the institution, EU foreign ministers were meeting this Monday to decide on a new package of sanctions on the Iran regime.
The latest package includes thirty-two regime officials, including the ministers of culture and education, as well as the deputy IRGC commander, among others. But the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation was not included in this fifth round of sanctions.
This decision weighed heavily on the atmosphere of the protest, which began with enthusiasm at around ten o’clock in the morning at the Belgian capital’s North Station, and ended with less optimism at around four PM at the Schuman roundabout, where the EU Council is seated.
Throughout the morning, placards with messages in favour of freedom, women’s rights and the right to live free from terror were raised in the surrounding area.
Above these shouts, flags of several European countries where the Iranian diaspora groups reside were waved in front of the headquarters of the EU institutions.
"I am here because of my people," Leila, one of the Iranian women who came all the way from The Netherlands to support this demonstration against her home country’s regime, tells EUobserver.
She did not come alone. Various buses travelled down to Brussels from the Netherlands, as well as expatriates from Germany, Sweden, Norway, and even from the United States and Canada, the demonstrators said.
Sorosh travelled with Leila. This young man explains that labelling the revolutionary guard as a terrorist organisation would be a first step towards weakening the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and favouring the Iranian population.
The protest comes a month after the European Parliament made the same request, after Iran sent drones to Russia for military use against Ukraine, and the domestic repressions experienced in the country.
For Mazis, another young Iranian who fled the country after being imprisoned in 2018 for the content of his songs, this label is a key point. "A lot of companies would stop trading with them," he said. "Trade means money for them, and they use the money for terrorist activities in Iran," he added.
More than 418 protesters killed
To date, the EU has imposed sanctions on over 200 Iranian individuals, officials and entities, including state media, commanders of the revolutionary guard and members of the ‘morality police’.
The latter was responsible for the arrest of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian girl who was arrested for not wearing her headscarf ‘properly’. She died in custody shortly afterwards.
Since September, her name has been repeated and shouted in many anti-government protests.
According to figures from the Norwegian NGO Iran Human Rights, more than 481 protesters have been killed by the country’s security forces.
"The IRGC is blinding my people," read the banner of Mania, a young Iranian woman now living in Germany. "We just call for more peace and more freedom in the Middle East," she told right after the demonstration ended.
This article was amended immediately after publication to correct the number of sanctioned Iranian individuals, officials and entities from 70 to over 200.