Jan. 5 (UPI) -- More than one week has passed since the massive protests broke out in Iran. It started from the country's second-largest city with spontaneous demonstrations against poverty and government corruption, but spread across Iran with lightning speed.
The slogans quickly turned political calling for the downfall of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They have reached over a hundred cities and towns, some of which were not familiar to even many Iranians before. This rightly suggests that we are faced with a nationwide popular demand against a corrupt and rotten medieval theocracy, which is now on its last legs.
At least 50 protesters have been shot dead by the security forces so far, according to daily reports provided by the network of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran -- better known by its initials PMOI or Persian acronym MEK -- which is the popular grass-root opposition movement that the regime has been accusing of organizing the protests.
Iran's repressive elite force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has begun a house-to-house search in many smaller towns, arresting those identified in the rallies, terrorizing the people and threatening them not to take part in any protests. The officials have announced over 1,800 arrests so far but the real figure is feared to reach several thousand.
According to Amnesty International, within two days some 423 detainees were registered in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. The human rights organization stressed that "the Iranian authorities have an appalling track record of carrying out mass arbitrary arrests of peaceful demonstrators. Given the alarming scale of the current wave of arrests, it is highly likely that many of those held are peaceful protesters who have been detained arbitrarily and now find themselves in prisons where conditions are dire and torture is a common tool to extract confessions and punish dissidents."
The world has been watching with amazement and admiration the footage of the extraordinary bravery of Iranians risking their lives on the streets to get their country back from the ayatollahs. But the response from the international community has been all but clear.
While the U.S. administration has been quick to declare support for the demonstrators and has maintained a steady line of advocacy in favor of the protesters over the past week, the European Union has been cautious and reluctant to declare any support. The EU's diplomacy chief, Federica Mogherini, waited five days before showing any reaction. And then, after at least a dozen protesters were declared dead, instead of making a formal declaration, she retweeted comments made by her spokesperson.
"The EU is following the demonstrations in Iran. We have been in touch with the Iranian authorities. We expect that the right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression will be guaranteed, following President Rouhani's public statements. We will continue to monitor the situation Iran," the EU spokesperson tweeted on Monday.
But on Thursday, Amnesty International stressed that "despite President Hassan Rouhani's assurance on Sunday, 30 December, 2017 that protesters have the right to criticize the government, the authorities' subsequent rhetoric has suggested they intend to respond to the unrest in an increasingly ruthless manner."
The Iranian Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani demanded a "strong action" from "all prosecutors." The Head of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, Mousa Ghanzafar Abadi, warned that the Ministry of Interior had declared the protests illegal and that those who continued to engage in demonstrations would face severe penalties. He threatened that the protest leaders and organizers could be charged with "enmity against God" (moharebeh), which is punishable by the death penalty, "as they are connected with foreign intelligence services and are implementing their agendas." Supreme leader Ali Khamenei accused the country's "enemies" of stirring the unrest.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence criticized European allies in an op-ed in The Washington Post on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, many of our European partners, as well as the United Nations, have thus far failed to forcefully speak out on the growing crisis in Iran," Pence wrote. "It's time for them to stand up."
The support in the United States is quite bipartisan. The U.S. Congress and Senate Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, as well as former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have all declared support for the Iranian freedom movement.
The EU now risks to quickly lose its credibility in the eyes of many Iranians who are shocked and have expressed anger on social media on the lack of resolve from European diplomacy to be on their side.
This is not a fight between "moderates" and "hard-liners," or Tehran vs. Trump. It's a fight between a brave people who want liberty and their brutal oppressors. The EU needs to choose a side. It's time to stop wasting time with the mullahs who will soon be history. It's time to side with the future free Iran.
Ryszard Czarnecki, is vice president of the European Parliament.