PARIS — Some 250 people demonstrated Wednesday at the Republic Square in Paris against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to France.
The demonstration was organized by labor unions, left-wing groups and associations of Iranians who oppose the regime. Many of the participants held aloft photos of Iranian activists imprisoned in Iran or activists executed there in the past two years, since Rouhani was elected president.
One of the demonstration’s leaders said about 2,000 people have been executed in Iran since Rouhani became president, and that Tehran maintains a policy of arresting those who criticize the government.
The demonstration joins a massive campaign in French media and social networks against Rouhani’s visit. The campaign focuses on the violation of human rights in Iran and on its support for terrorism.
France’s main newspapers – Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation — all published over the past two days editorials stating that Iran has not changed and has not yet become a progressive and liberal country with which France can renew relations, especially against the backdrop of Iranian ties with Hezbollah’s military wing and its involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Several other demonstrations have been scheduled for Thursday, including a large rally, organized by several Jewish groups, that is set to take place outside of the French senate. NGOs dedicated to human rights and women’s rights and student organizations are also planning to hold protests.
A French expert on Iran, former diplomat Francois Nicoullaud, told The Times of Israel that while Iran has indeed meticulously fulfilled its part of the nuclear agreement with world powers, it has not refrained from hostility toward Israel and delegitimization of the Jewish state.
“We can only hope that renewed ties with the West will influence Iranian society to the point that the regime as well will abandon its hostility toward Israel and its ties to terror organizations,” he said, adding that Rouhani’s visit to Europe and the message of renewing relations with the international community would assist the Iranian president in the upcoming parliamentarian elections in Iran, scheduled for February.
Thierry Coville, an expert on the Iranian economy, told The Times of Israel that French business people have been waiting eagerly for 10 years for relations with Tehran to be renewed.
“When the sanctions were imposed, the French companies left Iran,” he said. “Some of them, like Peugeot, had to lay off thousands of workers and even shut down plants. The French automobile and energy sectors relied heavily on the Iranian market, which was the largest one for French exports outside of the European Union.”