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 Full text 
Wednesday, 27 November 2019 - Strasbourg Provisional edition

Situation in the broader Middle East region, including the crisis in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon (debate)

  Hannah Neumann, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, 30 years ago people took to the streets in Europe and they stood up for freedom and for democracy. They were not organised, but they were united in one claim: ‘we are the people’.

Two weeks ago in this House we congratulated ourselves on the successful demonstrations and how they have changed our lives for the better. Since this summer we have seen demonstrations in many countries around the Middle East. Algeria: ongoing. Egypt: violent and cruel crackdown. Lebanon: a Prime Minister stepping down and an old elite clinging to power. Iraq: their protest is met with the utmost violence. About 350 are dead. Iran: a massive media blackout. We don’t even have viable information, but more than 100 are dead for sure.

In all of these uprisings we see people taking their claims to the street against corruption and for participation, against repression and for democracy. What is new in this protest is that they don’t care anymore about sectarian or regional boundaries. We are all Iraqis is what they shout in the streets of Baghdad, and that is apparently scaring the old elites.

A tear gas canister fired at the head of a 17-year-old in Baghdad, a mother in jail for posting on Facebook in Cairo, protesters greeting security forces with flowers and met with live ammunition in Shiraz in Iran. And we, the European Union, the ones that have just celebrated 30 years of peaceful revolution, we are bystanders once more.

In Iraq we have been present for years. We have supported with humanitarian aid. We have had reconstruction projects. We actually have a mission on security sector reform in the very same country where medics are shot in the back when treating the wounded, where snipers are firing at peaceful protesters. And those in the streets of Iraq, they refused the interference of Iran and the US and they are very clear about that.

The UN has lost its credibility and protesters are clearly, clearly calling on us, the European Union, to fill the void, to organise dialogue, to stop the killing, to investigate the abuses, to do a proper security-sector reform and to just teach them crowd control. And the EU is issuing statements without commitments.

Let me be clear, doing nothing or only a little in such a situation can actually do a lot of harm. We failed the demonstrators of the Arab Spring in 2011, and we should not let them down once again. We are all human beings and we are human beings with human rights.

Last updated: 20 December 2019Legal notice