Kasra Aarabi

A year after the murder of Mahsa Amini, Britain must find the will to deal with Iran

The government has not even imposed sufficient sanctions, let alone proscribed the IRGC


Iranian soldiers from the Revolutionary Guards march march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 22, 2015, in the capital Tehran. AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

September 21, 2023 09:41

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman who died in the custody of the Iranian regime’s so-called “morality police” after being arrested for wearing an “improper hijab”. At the time, the UK adopted a rhetorically tough posture. Rishi Sunak’s government vowed to support the Iranian people, protect the UK from the IRGC terror threat and impose consequences on the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the 84-year-old supreme leader.

One year on, reality tells another story. Other than condemnations and limited sanctions, the government has done very little to impose any consequences on Khamenei’s regime.

Of course, Whitehall’s default response to any criticism of its Iran policy is, “What more can we do?” For now, IRGC proscription seems firmly off the cards, with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly openly opposing the move, despite all the evidence.

But if the UK is currently unwilling to proscribe the IRGC, at the very least it must take immediate action against the network of Khamenei-run Islamist centres in the UK — all of which either have ties to the IRGC or have conducted IRGC-related activities on their premises.

Most readers will be aware that the Kilburn-based Islamic Centre of England (ICE), which operates as Khamenei’s UK office, is under investigation by the Charity Commission for allegedly violating its rules on extremism.

In January 2020, ICE held a vigil for IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, at which the UK designated terrorist was praised as a “dedicated soldier of Islam” and a great “martyr”. ICE’s director Seyed Hashem Moosavi — Khamenei’s official UK representative — even posted an image on his official social media account glorifying Soleimani and another UK-designated terrorist, Imad Mughniyeh, the late commander of Hezbollah’s global terrorist operations.

But ICE is just the tip of the iceberg, as it were.

Only a stone’s throw away, in Willesden Green, lies the UK-affiliate branch of the Khamenei-run Al-Mustafa University, the so-called “Islamic College”. Al Mustafa University is directly linked to the Supreme Leader, with its head appointed by, and accountable to, Khamenei. The university is affiliated with the IRGC and Al Mustafa’s leadership is open about its ties to the Iran-backed Shia terrorist group Hezbollah and its chief Hassan Nasrallah.

The UK’s inaction towards Al-Mustafa is not for lack of knowledge. In April 2022, Cleverly, then Middle East Minister, stated that the UK was “aware that Al-Mustafa University has been sanctioned by the US as a terrorist entity due to its recruitment of students for the IRGC’s Quds Force”.

Despite his acknowledgment of Al-Mustafa’s ties to the IRGC, it has yet to be sanctioned and its UK-affiliate branch remains open.

The final entities that must be targeted are the Islamic Students Associations of Britain and Europe (ISA), both of which operate from their Kanoon Towhid Centre in Hammersmith. ISA is part of the regime’s official Islamic Students Association network, which is controlled by Khamenei through his official representatives. In August, the JC revealed that eight senior IRGC officials had been hosted online by the ISA, where they promoted terrorism and antisemitism and called on British Muslim students to join an apocalyptic army that would — in their own words — “bring an end to the life of Jews” around the world. Again, the opening of a Charity Commission inquiry is the only response there has been to these activities.
Statements of condemnation and lengthy, bureaucratic inquiries into these Khamenei-run centres are simply not good enough.

ICE, Al-Mustafa and ISA are all directly tied to the regime’s supreme leader. Their heads are appointed by, and accountable to, Khamenei and the entities themselves come under apparatus of the office of the Supreme Leader, rather than the Islamic Republic’s foreign ministry.

Given that Khamenei is directly responsible for gross human rights violations inside and outside Iran, the UK can and should use Magnitsky sanctions, which target human rights violations, against these entities, to immediately shut them down and expel them from the UK. All the evidence is there.

The only thing that is needed is the political will.

Kasra Aarabi is Director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI)

September 21, 2023 09:41

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