Thousands of opponents of Iran’s ruling authorities rallied for a second day in Paris on Sunday (February 12) to pressure European Union states to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization in response to a crackdown in the country.
Tehran has been engaged in a violent crackdown on protesters since September, including carrying out executions, and it has also detained dozens of European nationals. The EU has become increasingly critical of its actions.
Ties between EU members and Tehran have also deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive talks on Iran’s nuclear program have stalled and the country has transferred drones to Russia to help it in its war against Ukraine.
Sunday’s rally in Paris, organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and which followed a similar rally on Saturday (February 11) by European-based Iranians, aimed to highlight the Iran Revolutionary Guards’ (IRGC) role in cracking down on protesters, but also its activities outside Iran.
“This is going to be a revolution… The youth know there is no future under this regime. They say they are better off dying in the streets than living in this country with this regime,” said Ela Zabihi, a university lecturer in London.
Iranians living in France and across Europe travelled to Paris to join the solidarity rally.
Widespread anti-government demonstrations erupted in Iran in September after the death of young Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by morality police for allegedly flouting the strict dress code imposed on women.
While some EU member states and the European parliament have pushed for the IRGC to be listed, others have been more cautious fearing that it could lead to a complete break in ties with Iran, harming any chance of reviving nuclear talks and jeopardizing any hope of getting their nationals released.
“The IRGC must be added to the list of designated terrorist organizations by the European Union,” Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI told the rally of several thousand people.
“The valiant youth have the right to defend themselves against the IRGC, covert agents, and the barrage of bullets that pierce their eyes, heads, and hearts.”
Members of the NCRI said resistance units inside Iran are organising their own protests in support of the opposition movement.
They said the NCRI is offers an alternative leadership, based on secular and democratic values.
“For me and for many others inside and outside (the) country, they believe that this well-organised movement with its plan can be the true face of the change inside Iran,” an Iranian civil engineer working in Norway, Ehsan Qaraee, told Reuters.
The People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran is the main component of NCRI. The group, also known by its Persian name Mujahideen-e-Khalq, was once listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union but not since 2012.
Tehran has long called for a crackdown on the NCRI in Paris, Riyadh and Washington. The group, whose level of support is unclear, is regularly criticized in state media.