A senior European Union diplomat’s arrival in Tehran to attend the inauguration ceremony of Iran’s newly elected president Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday drew criticism from rights groups and activists due to Raisi’s human rights record.
The inauguration ceremony of Raisi, whose presidency was endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a separate ceremony on Tuesday, will be held on Thursday, 17:00 local time at the parliament’s building in Tehran.
A total of 115 officials from 73 countries will attend the event, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
Representing the EU at the ceremony will be Enrique Mora, deputy secretary-general of the European External Action Service, the bloc’s diplomatic body.
In an open letter to Mora posted on her Instagram account on Wednesday, prominent Iran-based human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi denounced the diplomat’s decision to attend Raisi’s inauguration ceremony, describing it as an effort aimed at aiding the “survival” of the Iranian regime.
“The people of your countries can gather in the streets for hours and state their demands from their governments. But the people of my land are shot dead for demanding water,” Mohammadi wrote, referring to recent protests in Iran which were sparked by water shortages.
Mohammadi, 48, is the spokeswoman and vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, a rights group banned in Iran. Shirin Ebadi, one of the group’s co-founders, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
“How is it that you can travel to Iran and be received by the Iranian regime that rejects your vaccines for the Iranian people? Because the first is for the survival of the regime and the second for the survival of the people,” Mohammadi added, referring to a ban issued by Khamenei in January on the import of COVID-19 vaccines made in the United States and Britain.
Masih Alinejad, a prominent US-based Iranian journalist and activist, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the EU is “betray[ing] its own ideals and human rights values by sending a representative to the inauguration of” Raisi, whom she described as a “mass murderer.”
Raisi’s name is tied to the 1988 mass execution of political prisoners in Iran, at which point he was allegedly the leading member of a group that came to be known as the “death committee,” a group of Iranian judiciary and intelligence officials put together by then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini to oversee the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners at the time.
Rights groups estimate that as many as 5,000 people were executed.
In 2019, the US sanctioned Raisi for human rights abuses, including the 1988 executions.
Rights groups called for Raisi to be investigated for crimes against humanity in June following his victory in Iran’s presidential election.