By Hamid Yazdan Panah
This past week Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi journeyed to Iran in search of diplomatic opportunities and financial gains. Renzi was joined by over 60 Italian business leaders, looking to peddle everything from fashion, to credit, to military defense. The trip culminated in a multibillionaire dollar deal signed on Monday, ensuring significant economic investment by Italy not only in the Iranian economy, but in the Iranian regime itself. The deal was protested by Iranian dissidents inside and outside Iran, many who claim that such investments not only prolong the life of the repressive regime, but created a vested interest in its survival by foreign powers.
Since Iran’s nuclear deal has gone into effect the international business community has been clamouring to get a piece of the action. France reportedly signed a deal for upwards of 15 billion dollars with the regime, while oil companies seek to re-establish a foothold in the country. Of course all of this must occur with the explicit approval of the autocratic regime in Tehran, which continues to control vast sectors of the economy.
It is estimated that the Revolutionary Guards Corp in Iran, together with various front groups controlled by the Supreme Leader and other governmental entities control as much as one third to one half of the Iranian economy. This role appears set to expand, apparently with enthusiastic Western cooperation. It is little wonder that Reuters reported that Supreme Leader Khamenei’s 95 billion dollar empire stood to benefit dramatically from sanctions relief.
Not all of this news has been met with with enthusiasm. For many Iranians who continue to suffer under the regime it simply the extension of a long standing policy by West towards Iran. One which embraces an autocratic government and ignores civil liberties in order to secure economic opportunity and resources.
A number of Iranian political prisoners wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Renzi protesting his callous disregard for Iran’s dismal human rights record. Another letter was written by the Mother of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a young woman who was executed by the regime for acting in self defense, despite international outcry over her sentence. The letter laments the Prime Minister’s willful ignorance as to reality of Iran for its people. She writes, “I want to be hopeful that the Prime Minister of Italy does not seek to plunder the God-given wealth of a people at the cost of remaining silent against an infectious phenomenon called execution.”
Apparently Italy has been so desperate to secure business with Iran that it took pains to cover up nude statues in Rome’s museums so as not to offend the President of the regime when he came to Italy. Apparently on this latest trip, the Italian delegation also covered up their eyes to the ongoing repression of political prisoners and dissidents in Iran, as Iran executed at least 8 prisoners during their trip.
Hamid Yazdan Panah is an Iranian-American human rights activist and attorney focused on immigration and asylum in the San Francisco Bay Area.