Sten Hankewitz: Why does Estonia have diplomatic relations with Iran?

Estonia recently “celebrated” the 30th anniversary of its relations with Iran and Estonia’s new ambassador to the country presented her credentials to the president of Iran; why on earth would Estonia even have diplomatic relations with one of the most oppressive, most evil regimes in the world is beyond belief, the executive editor of Estonian World, Sten Hankewitz, writes.

The Estonian foreign ministry on 26 April sent out a press release on the new ambassador to Iran, Annely Kolk, having presented her credentials to the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi. The press release specifically emphasised that Raisi was the president of the “Islamic Republic of Iran,” the designation Iran adopted after the revolution of 1979 that overthrew the Shah and created a theocracy that is responsible of countless of human rights violations and thousands of deaths.

The press release by the Estonian foreign ministry continues by saying that Kolk and Raisi “spoke about the 30th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Estonia and Iran, celebrated on 18 August. They also discussed developing bilateral cooperation.” 

“I can see potential for development in the cooperation between Estonia and Iran, especially in culture and economy,” Kolk said, according to the foreign ministry press release.

Iran hangs people from cranes

I’m sorry, but what did I just read? Estonia is “celebrating” its diplomatic relations with a country that hangs people from cranes? Estonia sees “potential for development” between itself – one of the staunchest bastions of democracy and human rights in Europe, “especially in culture and economy” – with Iran, a country that has suppressed all human rights since the Islamic revolution and whose economy is in omnishambles because of the international sanctions?

A public execution for a man convicted of rape in Iran. Photo by the Fars Media Corporation, shared under the CC BY 4.0 licence.
A public execution for a man convicted of rape in Iran. Photo by the Fars Media Corporation, shared under the CC BY 4.0 licence.

Of the world’s almost 200 countries, only 97 have diplomatic relations with Iran. For example, the United States hasn’t had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1980. Why would an ally of the US – Estonia – have diplomatic relations with a pariah country is beyond belief.

True, many other democratic countries have diplomatic relations with Iran. Many of these countries even maintain an embassy in Tehran (the Estonian ambassador resides in Ankara, Turkey). But how many of these democratic nations actually “celebrate” their relations with a murderous regime? How many of these democratic nations seek “cooperation…especially in culture and economy” with Iran?

Iran executes anyone – no matter whether legally proven or not, at least by the standards of democratic countries – who’s gay, who cheats on their partner, but also who plots to “overthrow the Islamic regime”, political dissidence, blasphemy, consumption of alcohol, and so on. The list of the “crimes” that get you the death penalty in Iran starts with enjoying a beer with your lunch and ends with watching porn on the internet.

According to the Amnesty International report 2021/2022, thousands of people in Iran “were interrogated, unfairly prosecuted and/or arbitrarily detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights, and hundreds remained unjustly imprisoned. Security forces unlawfully used lethal force and birdshot to crush protests.”

Executing most people per capita in the world

“Women, LGBTI people and ethnic and religious minorities faced entrenched discrimination and violence. Legislative developments further undermined sexual and reproductive rights, the right to freedom of religion and belief, and access to the internet. Torture and other ill-treatment, including denying prisoners adequate medical care, remained widespread and systematic,” Amnesty says.

“Judicial punishments of floggings, amputations and blinding were imposed. The death penalty was used widely, including as a weapon of repression. Executions were carried out after unfair trials.”

The public flogging of a man convicted of consuming alcohol in Iran. Photo by Amnesty International.
The public flogging of a man convicted of consuming alcohol in Iran. Photo by Amnesty International.

Iran also executes the most people per capita in the world. In 2015, Iran executed 977 people, according to the public records; we really don’t know how many the regime has really murdered.

Does that regime actually sound like something Estonia should be friends with? 

Estonia is showing real leadership by standing with Ukraine who’s under enormous pressure because of Russia’s unprovoked aggression, mass murder and genocide. And at the same time, Estonia is bending over to Iran, one of the most oppressive, murderous regimes in the world who’s as evil as Russia’s is.

Even the most two-faced person would be ashamed. Unfortunately, governments don’t feel shame.

The opinions in this article are those of the author.

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