MPs from across the spectrum are urging Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to take stronger action against the Iranian regime, including designating its special armed forces a terror organisation, as has been done already by the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.
National, the Green Party, Act and Te Pāti Māori have all signed a letter delivered to Ardern and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta today, in response to the ongoing violence by the Iranian regime against “democracy and women’s rights protesters”.
It comes after Parliament at the end of October unanimously agreed to a motion condemning the violence against protesters and the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, which has sparked the current movement.
In the letter, the parties requested Ardern use her discretionary powers to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terror entity.
The IRGC is a special branch of the country’s armed forces tasked with defending the regime against internal and external threats, and which has been accused of much of the recent violence against Iranian citizens.
The parties said justification for designating it as a terrorist entity was not limited to the “decades of violence committed within Iranian borders”.
“It would bring New Zealand in line with our security partners, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.”
Such a designation helped bar senior members of the IRGC from travel, and funding or dealing in funds held by them or entities they controlled were criminalised.
“Valid concerns remain that New Zealand is now an outlier and may become a sanctuary for IRGC funds or activity,” the parties said.
“We, therefore, ask that you direct IRGC be designated a terror entity to protect the security interests of New Zealand, to make clear our firm stance against the violence suffered by the Iranian people, and all victims of terror committed by that organisation.”
The letter was delivered ahead of a special session this evening (NZ time) of the Human Rights Council to address “the deteriorating human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran”. It also came as about 100 protesters from New Zealand’s Iranian community gathered on Parliament grounds demanding stronger action.
Iranian-born Green MP and foreign affairs spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman met with Mahuta this afternoon and delivered the letter. Ardern is today in Hamilton.
Ghahraman said while the Government had issued statements it had not taken any new, strong actions since the protests began.
“New Zealand has not taken any decisive action at all, we have made statements, that don’t actually stop atrocities as they happen,” Ghahraman said.
“So what we do need to do as what our security partners have done, which is, through some mechanism and law, make it possible to freeze assets banned funding mechanisms, banned travel of the name, and individuals we know are responsible for this.”
On the letter, Ghahraman said the immediate response was that the Government would be “seeking advice”.
“What seems to be really obvious now is that we need to ensure that we’re in line with the rest of the world with the rest of our security partners,” Ghahraman said.
Mahuta told the Herald making such a designation would have “legal and diplomatic implications”.
“So it’s not something I would immediately respond to without full consideration.”
National’s foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee said the IRGC was responsible for the “dreadful atrocities currently being committed”.
“Particularly against women in Iran who are simply asking for the sort of freedom that we take for granted every day here in New Zealand.
“The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a group that has considerable international reach and we need to ensure that they do not get any kind of a foothold here in New Zealand, especially if some of their members decided to try and use us as a safe haven.
“As signatories to the letter, we urge the Prime Minister to act with all haste in making this designation.”
Act Party deputy leader and foreign affairs spokeswoman Brooke van Velden said they were “proud” to join the cross-party call to action.
“New Zealanders have been shocked, saddened and appalled by the events taking place in Iran. If other nations don’t stand up and push back on these sorts of atrocities then we have no chance of ever putting an end to them.”
Van Velden said they would also continue calling for the removal of the Iranian Ambassador from New Zealand.
A spokesman for Ardern said in a statement that New Zealand condemned the actions of the Iranian regime and the IRGC in their “brutal suppression of democracy and women’s rights protesters”.
“New Zealand already imposes sanctions against some IRGC-linked individuals under the United Nations (Iran – Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) Regulations 2016.
“Only five countries have designated the IRGC a terrorist entity. The majority of the international community is looking at other measures to put pressure on the Iranian regime to stop the violence against their own population.
“We are seeking further advice on additional actions the Government can take. New Zealand is actively supporting efforts to have Iran removed from the UN Commission on the Status of Women.”