A pro-Iranian business conference slated for Tuesday in Berlin triggered sharp
criticism last week and on Saturday from European-based NGOs and Mideast experts
because the event seeks to promote trade with the Islamic Republic.
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group EIVENT (European- Iranian Ventures) organized the conference titled
“Economic Congress: Iranian Business Women Power.” EIVENT listed the German
Association for Small and Medium-sized Businesses (BVMW) as a
“For Iranian business women to be honored in Germany – while
their sisters in Iran are humiliated, silenced, repressed and stoned – is a slap
at human rights,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, director of international relations
for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“Now Iranian women are to be used as a
pretext even on German soil. Any German political representative attending this
fair will be violating the sanctions regimes against Iran established by
Germany, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations,” Samuels
Asked about the BVMW sponsoring the pro-Iran trade event, Eberhard
Vogt, a spokesman for BVMW, on Saturday issued an e-mail statement to The
. “The BVMW is neither the organizer nor host of the company
Congress Iranian Business Women Power in Berlin. The BVMW expressly barred the
organizer from using the association’s logo and received confirmation of the
ban,” he wrote.
The BVMW conducts “trade with all business partners
across the world” and maintains “strict political neutrality,” the BVMW
said. “It is, therefore, absurd to maintain that Germany’s leading
mid-sized [business] association is violating sanctions against Iran or glossing
over the situation of women in Iran.”
Dr. Dieter Graumann, head of
Germany’s Central Council of Jews, however, blasted German companies in late
October for failing to sever business deals with Iran. Midsized firms are
largely responsible for the bulk of German investment and trade with
Saba Farzan, a leading German- Iranian expert who has written
extensively on Iran’s repression of its democracy activists, told the Post
Saturday, “While our public's legitimate concerns about Iran’s clandestine
nuclear weapons program are growing, our medium-sized companies still continue to
do business with an oppressive regime. And now the regime advocates so-called
‘women business power’ – women power with forced veiling, gender apartheid and
other forms of severe persecution of Iran’s most courageous freedom activists.
Does anyone get the ridiculous picture?”
Farzan continued: “Our medium-sized
businesses obviously don’t. It becomes evident once again that we need a strong
policy strategy to withdraw our medium-sized businesses from Iran. Iranian
women are called lions as they’re in the forefront of challenging this medieval
regime – with their courage, with their intellect and with their
self-confidence. It wouldn’t require a lot for Germany’s smaller
companies to be smart enough and not to fall for this tragic-comedy-propaganda
event and to become lions in isolating the brutal Islamic
Nasrin Amirsedghi, a German- Iranian who in 2007 helped expose
the mid-sized and blue-chip companies’ support for trade with the Islamic
Republic, told the Post
on Saturday, “The absurdity of German economic interests
in Iran knows no limits!” and the “Iranian Business Women Power” event is “a
slap in the face of humanity and decency.” She cited a running list of
anti-woman policies and forms of misogyny in Iran.
“In a country where
the value of a woman is worth 50 camels, a human-rights lawyer like Nasrin
Sotudeh is sentenced to 11 years in prison and prohibited for 20 from practicing
law because she represented opponents” of Iran’s regime.
barred from certain jobs like diplomats and judges. Women are forced into
legalized prostitution because of poverty,” she said.
written articles on the repression of women in the Islamic
Republic. “Gender-apartheid and forced dress codes” are rampant.
representative from the Campus Hotel in Berlin, confirmed that the pro-business
Iran conference will be held there on Tuesday. She could not tell the Post
many businesses and participants registered and said a spokesperson was not
available over the weekend to comment.
Dr. Diana Gregor, a Vienna-based
expert on Central European business ties with Tehran, told the Post
“I find the event outrageous, very disturbing and quite questionable considering
the fact that just a couple of days ago the IAEA revealed that it has
substantial evidence from intelligence sources and their own IAEA inspectors
demonstrating that Iran is carrying out a nuclear program.
“And last year
the Marriott Hotel in Hamburg hosted the Iran Business Forum to jumpstart
investment opportunities in northwest Iran,” Gregor said. “All this shows no
change of heart from Germany, despite some companies pulling out of their
Germany’s oft-invoked “justification of being afraid of
Chinese rivals is no reason to deal with dictators, murderers, human-rights
abusers and oppressors,” Gregor said.
Melody Sucharewicz, a Munich-born
Israeli who is a prominent specialist on German- Israeli relations, told the
: “This is extremely worrying – especially as it’s not an isolated incident.
Rather it shows a trend.”