Once again, the European Parliament is planning to send a delegation to Tehran. The trip, scheduled for the end of this month, was confirmed by the parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iran just before summer.
Described as a "bridge building exercise," the seven-day trip is to set off on Saturday October 27 and could include up to 14 members of the European Parliament according to the minutes of the Delegations' July meeting made available on parliament's website last month. Iranian officials also confirmed that the October visit is on their agenda.
Several people were hanged in public during the last trip by a European parliamentary delegation to Iran in 2007. The Iranian media hailed the trip.
The idea to have a European delegation designated for relations with Iran first emerged in 2004 when the Iranian embassy worked hard to establish a formal liaison with the European Parliament. The Iran lobby within the EU justified this as an instrument to boost the so-called moderate president Mohammad Khatami. Ironically enough, the delegation was established only after the hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in 2005 and therefore could hardly serve its purpose. Nevertheless, the rapprochement only intensified and delegations from both sides started to exchange inter-parliamentary visits.
The latest Year Report by Amnesty International counts 634 executions carried out in Iran during 2011. That puts Iran to world's number one executioner state, per capita. The number of public executions in Iran quadrupled compared to the previous year.
Another report by Amnesty International says at least 143 children were on death row in Iranian prisons, waiting to go to the gallows when they reach 18.
Iran's strictly controlled electoral system allows only the highly loyal to run for a seat in the Majlis, the Iranian parliament where the Delegation is planning to visit. Nearly a third of Majlis' current members are ex-commanders of the notorious Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and were allegedly involved in human rights abuses.
Canada cut diplomatic relations with Iran last month and kicked out Iranian diplomats, citing Iran's human rights abuses and calling the country "the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."
Meanwhile, in a surprising move in the opposite direction, the European Parliament adopted a resolution, proposed by its powerful German Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Elmar Brok, calling on EU to open an office in Tehran.
Germany, the most significant European trade partner with Iran, seems to have a say in this. Until last year, a German Green Euro MP had always chaired the EP-Iran Delegation. Some reports suggest that the coordination with the Iranian embassy is still done by a German Green adviser. According to The Economist: World in Figures 2012 edition, Germany is world's number three, after UAE and China, in exports to Iran.
Critics often maintain, whatever good intentions this people may have, such trips would give credit to that theocracy.
"The mullahs couldn't expect a better gift than this publicity with such a visit," says London-based human rights activist Leila Azari, who lost one relative in Iran during the 2009 uprising. "At a time when the international community needs to punish them for their cruelty, some seem to be only keen on doing business," she said.
Two weeks ahead of the trip, the final say is in the hands of "the Conference of Presidents" - parliament's authoritative body - composed of President Martin Schulz and leaders of the political groups.