On her first trip to Tehran, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with Gohar Eshghi, the mother of Sattar Beheshti (the jailed blogger who was pronounced dead three days after his arrest by the Tehran Cyber Police) and women’s rights activist Nargess Mohammadi.
Ashton, who arrived in Tehran on International Women’s Day, also met with several other women’s rights activists. In a statement issued at the end of her trip, Ashton said it should come as no surprise that her trip was largely focussed on the issue of human rights. She adds that she discussed issues concerning women’s status in the Islamic Republic as well as the situation of journalists and issues concerning assistance to Afghan refugees and other aspects of civil society.
Ashton’s meeting with Eshghi and Mohammadi was widely reflected in social media and has drawn fire from Iranian conservative factions.
Minoo Aslani, the head of the Basij Women’s Society, questioned the foreign ministry’s handling of Ashton’s itinerary, asking why it did not include a visit with the families of “nuclear martyrs”.
The reference is to the families of nuclear scientists assassinated in Iran recent years; Iranian authorities attribute those actions to Israeli and U.S. secret operations.
Fifty-seven non-governmental women’s organizations also questioned Ashton’s meeting with Eshghi and Mohammadi, saying: “meeting with seditious elements” is not a good way to build confidence with Iran.