Thousands of opponents of Iran's ruling authorities rallied for a second day in Paris on Sunday to pressure European Union states to list Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization in response to a crackdown in the country.
Tehran has been engaged in a violent crackdown on protesters since September, including carrying out executions, and it has also detained dozens of European nationals. The EU has become increasingly critical of its actions.
Ties between EU members and Tehran have also deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive talks on Iran's nuclear program have stalled and the country has transferred drones to Russia to help it in its war against Ukraine.
Sunday's rally in Paris, organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and which followed a similar rally on Saturday by European-based Iranians, aimed to highlight the IRGC's role in cracking down on protesters, but also its activities outside Iran.
"This will be a revolution... The youth know there is no future under this regime. They say they are better off dying in the streets than living in this country with this regime," said Ela Zabihi, a university lecturer in London.
Iranian protests across the country
Widespread anti-government demonstrations erupted in Iran in September after the death of young Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by morality police for allegedly flouting the strict dress code imposed on women.
While some EU member states and the European Parliament has pushed for the IRGC to be listed, others have been more cautious fearing that it could lead to a complete break in ties with Iran, harming any chance of reviving nuclear talks and jeopardizing any hope of getting their nationals released.
Designating the IRGC as a terrorist group would mean that it would become a criminal offense to belong to the group, attend its meetings and carry its logo in public.
Set up after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shi’ite clerical ruling system, the Guards have great sway in the country, controlling swathes of the economy and armed forces and put in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
"The IRGC must be added to the list of designated terrorist organizations by the European Union," Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI told the rally of several thousand people.
"The valiant youth have the right to defend themselves against the IRGC, covert agents, and the barrage of bullets that pierce their eyes, heads, and hearts."
The People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran is the main component of NCRI. The group, also known by its Persian name Mujahideen-e-Khalq, was once listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union but not since 2012.
Tehran has long called for a crackdown on the NCRI in Paris, Riyadh and Washington. The group, whose level of support is unclear, is regularly criticized in state media.