A backlash over the reopening of an Irish embassy in Tehran is growing after diplomats based in Ireland were sent a document by the Iranian ambassador that has been dismissed as “propaganda”.
The document, entitled “understanding the unrest in Iran”, was distributed to diplomats by the Iranian ambassador to Ireland last week after protests and riots erupted following the death in Tehran of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. She died after being arrested by morality police for not wearing her hijab correctly.
It comes as Fine Gael parliamentarians wrote to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney asking him to stall or cancel the reopening of the embassy in Tehran. On Tuesday Mr Coveney said the Government is “not ploughing ahead” with the reopening, which is “under review”.
In a letter sent to embassies accredited to Ireland, Iranian ambassador Dr Masoud Eslami said media coverage “has only offered a partial narrative” and “served to unfairly smear the image of Iran”.
The document argues that Ms Amini died after “all and every effort made by a team of doctors to save her life proved unsuccessful”. The document claims a forensic report “disapproved (sic) the suggestion of any traumatic injury and indicated that she had an underlying vulnerability due to brain surgery at the age of eight”.
It argued that describing her death as a “murder or brutal killing resulting from torture is a deliberate distortion which has been used to provoke anger and incite tension”. It says there has been an “impartial investigation” of the death and that “compelling evidence proved that her unexpected death was not caused by violence”.
There were criticisms on Tuesday of the document from members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party. Regina Doherty, the Seanad leader, said it “smacks of propaganda” and was designed to “try to muddy the waters”. Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan agreed that the document was “completely propaganda” and “completely self-pitying”.
The pair, along with Mr Flanagan and Senator Mary Seery Kearney, wrote to Mr Coveney asking him to halt or cancel the plan to reopen the embassy until the completion of a special investigation by the UN. On Tuesday Mr Coveney said the Government is “not ploughing ahead” with the reopening of Ireland’s embassy in Tehran.
He said the decision is “under review” and that if the Government decides to go ahead with the reopening of the embassy in the Iranian capital next year it will be because it “makes sense” to have diplomatic channels open with a country that it has “concerns” about at present.
The Iranian document says its government wants to invite a delegation of Irish parliamentarians to visit Iran and “become acquainted with the situation first hand”.
It argues that protests against the regime have not been peaceful and have led to the deaths of 30 policemen and the destruction of property. The embassy document claims civil protest “was hijacked by political opponents of the Islamic Republic of Iran both from outside and inside the country”.
Iranian authorities did their best to “control the situation and avoid unnecessary clashes”, it claims. Meanwhile, “foreign state sponsored agencies” are at work in the “mass production of false narratives” and “toxic content”, the document claims, citing BBC Persian and Euronews Persion among others.
It argues that a “dark image” of women’s lives in Iran is “far from the truth”. It says the hijab is “not strictly enforced in Iran” and that the “social norms” of Muslim society have been “stretched to allow for a variety of fashionable styles in recent years”. A minority who are not happy with the requirement to wear a hijab “is not entitled to break the law, disrespecting a religious requirement, and resorting to violence to change the situation”.
A spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Dublin said the document was “produced to help people understand the unrest in Iran from an Iranian point of view” and referred to a report from the High Council of Human Rights in Iran”
“There has been independent authoritative investigation in Iran into the death of Mahsa Amini. Nevertheless, independent International investigation has been precluded mainly because of politicisation of the matter and aggressive approaches which have rejected Iran’s legitimate authority and jurisdiction”
“Labelling the briefing as propaganda is a political way of discouraging people to read it. Let the words and pictures speak for themselves and the readers decide for themselves.” – Additional reporting PA