MPS are demanding that the government acts to ban Iran’s brutal Revolutionary Guards as a campaigner’s hunger strike over the issue enters its 40th day.
Vahid Beheshti, a British-Iranian journalist, is protesting in Whitehall over the lack of progress in moves to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terror group.
Beheshti, who has already spent more than five weeks without food, said the IRGC urgently needed to be placed on the same legal footing as Al-Qaeda or Islamic State in order to keep British citizens — and Jews — safe.
His gruelling personal campaign comes as senior MPs increased the pressure on the government to act against the IRGC “before they do harm in Britain, rather than afterwards”.
Labour MP Steve McCabe said he had been “humbled” to meet Beheshti , adding that “the government has been far too soft for far too long and must finally listen to sense and proscribe Tehran’s terror army once and for all”.
Lord Carlile KC, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said: “This brave man’s protest at the appalling atrocities perpetrated by the IRGC, which has recently been shown to be conducting hostile activities on British soil, serves to highlight once again that it is now time to proscribe it.”
Despite a recent warning from a doctor about his health, Beheshti said that concern for the safety of British citizens drove him to keep going.
He said that Jews in the UK need to be “very concerned” about the force, adding: “We see the hand of IRGC here. Everybody who lives in the UK has definitely felt the impact of IRGC, this terrorist organisation.
“We all witnessed just two weeks ago Metropolitan Police ask [Iran International] TV station to relocate their activities from London to Washington. So the hand of IRGC is not there anymore, it’s here, in London, in the UK,” he said.
Security minister Tom Tugendhat has warned Iran was hiring organised criminals to spy on Britain’s Jews in preparation for a potential assassination campaign against prominent community members.
Beheshti claimed Tugendhat, who met him several weeks ago, had confirmed the government would proscribe the IRGC but would not provide a timeframe.
Beheshti said: “We have the majority of MPs cross party, they are agreeing.
“We have the majority of ministers, we have the Home Secretary, we have Mr Tugendhat; even Rishi Sunak [saying he wants to proscribe the IRGC] before he became prime minister.
He stated in one tweet IRGC should be placed on [the] list of terrorist organisations.”
Beheshti, who has lost 12kg since he started his hunger strike, said concerned politicians have repeatedly urged him to stop for the sake of his health. “I said to them, you are concerned about my health? I am concerned about our values,” he told the JC.
“I am concerned about our rights, I am concerned about our safety in the UK, not anymore [just] in Iran, or the Middle East, or even in Ukraine where they get killed these days by the IRGC’s drones, which they supply to Putin.”
Senior Tory back bench MP and former Cabinet minister David Davis told the JC: “In light of the increasing aggression of the IRGC’s international operations, it’s time that the British government proscribes it under the Terrorism Act 2000. The intelligent course of action is to do this before they do harm in Britain, rather afterwards.”
Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chair Alicia Kearns said: “The UK must send a clear message that we will not accept IRGC militancy, terrorism, hostage-taking, kidnapping and intimidation by proscribing the organisation.
The IRGC poses a direct threat to the security of Britain and our people at home and abroad. To do so would be to recognise that states can be capable of terrorism for the first time, but this recognition is long overdue.”
The argument made by some that we cannot treat the body as a terror group because we must maintain a diplomatic relationship with the Iranian government was, he claimed, not reasonable.
“Hezbollah has been designated officially by the UK government as a terrorist organisation and proscribed.
“Well IRGC is the main supporter of Hezbollah, so legally we have to do this in the UK. So the question is this, why are we not doing it?”
Beheshti has also received backing from Kearns, who told the House of Commons last month she was “seriously concerned” about his health.
Multiple IRGC “cutouts” are operating in the UK to silence critics of Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Khameini, she added.
On the 26th day of Beheshti’s hunger strike, the Rutland MP met with him, offered the campaigner use of her office’s facilities, and gifted him a pack of hand warming gels.
Beheshti said that after fleeing Iran as a refugee he was determined to protect the rights available to him in Britain.
Despite a warning from his doctor, who is providing regular medical checkups, Beheshti says he will not give up.
“I’m getting weaker and weaker physically but internally getting stronger, when I see the support of people, when I see as days go by the urgency of this proscribing IRGC I’m getting more and more determined and certain that I have to carry [on] until we achieve this together,” he said.
“In my heart I have a fire, that fire gives me energy, keeps me going. I don’t know how long. From the day one I said I’m going to keep going til we achieve this great goal… I will continue until I can…
“I think, I have to tell these guys, there is someone who is willing to pay the price for this course.”