Defying EU boycott, Poland and Hungary send envoys to Iran Revolution anniversary

Both countries ignore tacit agreement among European capitals not to attend high-profile public ceremonies amid Tehran’s brutal repression of months-long popular uprising

Iranians gather in front of Tehran's Azadi Tower to mark the 44nd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, on February 11, 2023. (AFP)
Iranians gather in front of Tehran's Azadi Tower to mark the 44nd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, on February 11, 2023. (AFP)

Ambassadors representing both Poland and Hungary were pictured at a state ceremony commemorating the 44th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, despite EU members’ boycott of Tehran in light of its brutal suppression of anti-government protesters.

Poland’s Maciej Fałkowski and Hungary’s Zoltán Varga-Haszonits could be seen in photos published by local media attending an official ceremony on Thursday, alongside Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. In one picture, Fałkowski was snapped shaking hands with Raisi, and bowing slightly.

Iran has been gripped by nationwide protests since the September 16 death in custody of Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd, who had been arrested for an alleged breach of strict dress rules for women.

In quashing the protests, thousands of Iranians, including public figures, journalists and lawyers, have been arrested by the government. According to AFP, 18 people have been sentenced to death by the judiciary in connection with the protests, triggering an outcry from the international community.

Although the EU has no official boycott of Iran, Politico reported that there was a tacit agreement among the bloc’s members to avoid attending high-profile public ceremonies.

On top of the Hungarian ambassador’s attendance on Thursday, the Eastern European country’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, sent a congratulatory message to his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, calling for the two countries to strengthen ties further.

Under Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Budapest has sought to maintain strong diplomatic and economic relations with Tehran without jeopardizing its strong relationship with Jerusalem.

Israel has seen its ties with Hungary warm in recent years, thanks in no small part to a meeting of the minds between the authoritarian Orban and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In addition to the attendance of the two European ambassadors, Iran’s government said it received messages of congratulations from Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.

Poland’s attendance at the ceremony in Tehran is more surprising, given Warsaw’s staunch support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. Iran has admitted to providing Russian forces with attack drones, though it claims that they have not been used to attack Ukrainian targets.

Hillel Neuer, executive director at UN Watch, labeled Hungary and Poland’s decision to attend the ceremony a “shame.”

“Poland and Hungary broke ranks with other EU countries in Tehran and sent ambassadors to a formal reception with President Ebrahim Raisi to celebrate the 44th anniversary of the Iranian revolution,” Neuer tweeted on Monday.

According to a report in The Guardian on Tuesday, US defense officials said they had “conclusive evidence” demonstrating Moscow’s use of Iranian-made drones in Ukraine. Earlier reports indicated the US held concerns Iran may provide Russia with rockets.

Iran’s domestically built missiles are displayed during the annual rally commemorating Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Iran, February 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

On Saturday, at another state event marking the anniversary of the revolution, Raisi declared his government’s victory over the months-long protest movement, widely considered the biggest domestic threat against the regime since it came to power in 1979.

Tens of thousands of flag-waving Iranians attended the ceremony at Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) square, where they chanted “Down with the US,” “Down with Israel,” “Down with the UK” and “Down with the traitor Al Saud,” in reference to Saudi Arabia.

State television said celebrations for the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution were held in 1,400 cities and towns across the country, and aired footage of large rallies in Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz, and Tabriz.

The celebrations mark the day that the shah’s government fell 10 days after Shiite cleric Khomeini returned from exile.

AFP contributed to this report. 

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