„Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.“

Social justice and human rights must guide EU foreign relations

I had the opportunity to talk to Sogol Ayrom, a bright Iranian Austrian woman, on issues of social justice and human rights recently. Feel free to read more about our conversation here. Sogol sadly passed away suddenly a few years later, in 2018. I keep this article in honor of a passionate woman who fought for women´s right all her life.

Courtesy to Sogol Ayrom, Iranian Alliance Party

Picture of Martin Luther King

Michaela Kauer, director of the Brussels Office of the City of Vienna, is a candidate of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) and is the candidate on the list who puts strong emphasis on social justice and human rights. She has returned to Vienna for the elections and I had the chance to meet her in person. I thought it would be a good occasion to ask her a delicate question about Iran.

Question: I as an Austrian citizen who has been living here since over 20 years have my roots in Iran. Therefore, issues regarding Iran are very important to me. Let us go beyond the nuclear talks which is currently being held with Iran, whether with or without results, I want to know how the European Parliament sees the social and human rights situation in Iran. As we can see Austria for example is going after new economic relations with Iran, will the human rights issue be forgotten?

Stability in economic relations can only be achieved by respect of women and children rights

Michaela Kauer: Not at all! Healthy economic relations between two countries must be based on stability. And stability can only be achieved by sustaining social justice and respect for human rights. We have about 38 million female populations in Iran, why shouldn’t we talk more often about their situation and rights? We don’t close our eyes on human rights issues in Iran.We cannot use the economic argument as an excuse to close our eyes on other countries social issues mostly when we have close economic relations with them.

38 million Iranian woman must not be ignored by the international community

We have about 38 million female population in Iran, why shouldn’t we talk more often about their situation and rights? The official age of marriage for women in Iran is 13. Passing a law, that a man can marry his own step daughter at the age of 13…! I mean these are children. Only children and not women! It’s just horrible. Even the thought of it is unbearable and unacceptable for me. And let’s talk about child labor. We have about 7 million children working in Iran. The exact official number of homeless children is not known but some NGOs talk about 2 million children without a roof over their heads. These children are helplessly exposed to cold and other dangers. These are topics that we cannot ignore.

We cannot close our eyes and say; well, Tehran’s oil stock is working pretty good for us. Do we accept Sharia laws? For example the Dieh Law which is the so called blood money says that a women’s value in case of Dieh is half of a man’s value. Is a woman half worth a man? We have to ask ourselves, are these acceptable for the international community? Does the European Union accept these standards in regard of their economical and diplomatic ties? My goal is to bring more attention to these topics in the newly elected European Parliament – and to change the overall focus of EU foreign relations to social justice and human rights.

Women from countries with Sharia law should get asylum in EU-countries

A woman sitting next to me raises her voice and says; I think if by any chance, a woman living in a country with Sharia law happens to be able to flee to an European country, she should be granted asylum immediately. Michaela Kauer nods her head and replies; I totally agree, this is an excellent idea.

Michaela Kauer: The question is about social justice. If I want social justice for Europe I cannot separate it or ignore it in other countries. Social justice, human rights, women and children’s rights are inseparable. When you get to human rights you don’t have any geographical borders. Otherwise it is not acceptable, full stop!

As Martin Luther King once said: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

The interview was part of a discussion on EU women´s policy on May 12th in Vienna. Find the full version here.

Let’s talk

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