Two years ago, in an unprecedented protest movement, millions of Iranians expressed, with courage and hope, aspirations very similar to those everyone is watching with admiration develop in the Arab world today: simple, irrepressible and universal aspirations for freedom, justice and dignity.
Since then, unfortunately, Iran has set out along a very different path, a dead-end path: that of repression and authoritarianism, self-absorption and isolation – in other words, the path rejected by all young people in the region.
So let us not forget Iran. For two years, the human rights situation has been constantly worsening, as shown by the growing number of reports reaching us of large-scale arrests, maltreatment and torture undergone by detainees, arbitrary sentences and the increasing number of death penalties, now more than 300 in total since the beginning of the year.
Let us not forget Iran, where attacks on freedom of information and expression have become systematic, with monitoring and censorship of the Internet, the arrest of journalists and the conviction and imprisonment of committed figures like the film-maker Jafar Panahi, sentenced to six years’ jail and a 20-year ban on his creative activities, and the lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is serving an 11-year prison term.
Let us not forget Iran, where the Iranian authorities are denying their people the right to demonstrate peacefully and where the leaders of opposition movements, Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi – one a former prime minister, the other a former chairman of parliament – are being held in isolation, in contempt of the law.
In accordance with her values, France cannot remain silent in the face of such a deterioration in the situation of fundamental rights. In Iran as elsewhere, there must be no compromise on the principle of individual freedoms: of opinion, expression and peaceful demonstration; there must be no compromise on respect for the dignity due to every human being. These universal values – upheld so bravely by the people of the region, including Iran – are shared by France.
It was in this spirit that France, with her European partners, adopted sanctions against 32 leaders of the crackdown in Iran. It is in this spirit that we call on the Iranian authorities to respect the right to freedom of expression, release immediately all arbitrarily detained prisoners, and give Messrs Moussavi and Karroubi back their full freedom.
The denial of the Iranian people’s aspirations, and the pursuit of a nuclear programme with no credible civilian purpose and in violation of international law, are leading Iran to become a pariah in the community of nations. In view of the choices made by Iran’s leaders, that community today has no option but to step up the sanctions against them.
This is all the more regrettable because Iran could play a leading role in the region, a role which is hers by right. As heir to an age-old civilization respected and admired by all, the Iranian government could forge a relationship of friendship and cooperation with France. That, however, means making the choice of opening up and not closing in on itself.
So, at a time when the young people of the Arab world are finally regaining their freedom, I want to say, on this anniversary date, that we have not forgotten the Iranian people and that our thoughts go out to them, too, and particularly the young people among them, who also have the right to a future of freedom./.