The scandal-ridden partnership between the German university city of Freiburg and the Iranian metropolis Isfahan has drawn the ire of prominent Iranian dissidents due to the clerical regime in Tehran’s Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and documented widespread human-rights violations.

Kazem Moussavi, the spokesman of the Green Party of Iran, which operates only in exile, told JNS on Tuesday that Freiburg Mayor Martin Horn should pull the plug on the program.

The Freiburg city partnership with Isfahan under the mullahs’ dictatorship serves to downplay the atrocities and dangers of the clerical-fascist system: anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, Holocaust cartoon competitions, Islamism, hatred of women and homosexuals, terrorism, support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and the nuclear missile programs aimed at destroying Israel,” said Moussavi.

Farhad Rezaei, a senior research fellow at the Philos Project, wrote in May that the Nuclear Research Institute at the University of Isfahan has conducted experimental work “related to nuclear weapons production.

Moussavi warned the city of Freiburg and its residents who travel to Isfahan as part of “citizens’ trips” that they “could be taken be as hostages” and it is “dangerous to travel to Iran.”

Moustafa El Kady, the organizer of a trip of Freiburg citizens to Isfahan, said one is planned for October.

Freiburg is the only German city that has a dual-city partnership with one located in Iran.

Iran’s regime has intensified its use of seizing Western citizens over the years to secure concessions from world governments. Two German hostages, Jamshid Sharmahd, a journalist, and Nahid Taghav, a human-rights activist, are currently incarcerated in Iran. 

Australian Islamic-studies academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by Iran from 2018 to 2020, appealed to Western capitals to advise their citizens not to travel to the Islamic Republic.

“Iran should be classified as DO NOT TRAVEL in Western govts’ travel advice,” she tweeted on Saturday. “If Iran wishes to negotiate a return of Western tourists and their valuable dollars and euros, they should agree to enforceable measures to protect and prevent their arrest,” added Moore-Gilbert.

‘He called us corrupt’

Sheina Vojoudi, an Iranian dissident who fled to Germany to escape persecution, told JNS that the Isfahan-Freiburg city partnership must be definitely canceled. This partnership only helps the regime to gain a better image. I think of my people and what’s good for them. If Freiburg wants to do something for humanity and culture for a cultural city like Isfahan, supporting human rights will be the best help. In Isfahan, people have been arrested because of their activities to defend the rights of the people,” said Vojoudi.

Isfahan mounts an al-Quds protest each year against Israel.

“Please end the anti-Israel partnership with the Isfahan administration that organizes and implements the al-Quds march to annihilate the democratic Jewish State of Israel,” pleaded Moussavi. The Islamic Republic News Agency reported in April that the communications department of  Seyed Reza Mortazavi, the General Governor of Isfahan, said in a message: “World Al-Quds Day was decorated to commemorate the liberation of Al-Aqsa mosque … from the clutches of the evil child-killing and usurping Zionist regime.”

According to Iran Metropolis News Agency, Mortazavi said at Imam Khomeini Square in Isfahan that “attending the Quds Day march has been established as a duty for the people of Islamic Iran.”

The regime-controlled IRIB news service in Isfahan showed video footage of elementary school students of Shahid Chiti School in Isfahan who made a drawing of Jerusalem being attacked.

Both Moussavi and Vojoudi urged Michael Blume, the commissioner responsible for combating antisemitism in BadenWürttemberg, where Freiburg is located, to implore Mayor Horn to end the partnership. The Simon Wiesenthal Center listed Blume’s activities in 2021 as the seventh worst example of global anti-Semitism. The experts at the center noted Blume has failed to take action against the partnership.

Vojoudi took Blume to task for an allegedly bigoted comment targeting Iranian dissidents who oppose the clerical regime. “Blume called people like me ‘corrupt exiled nationalists’ after I showed him the leaked footage of Evin prison and told him [that] only criticism won’t help us and as a ‘defender of the human rights’ he should do more,” said Vojoudi. “But, in response, he insulted and discriminated against Iranians in exile. He called us corrupt but the rulers of their twin city [partnership], the officials of Islamic Republic, are the most corrupt people on earth.”

She added: “How can a city claim to be a good friend of the Jewish State of Israel and at the same time has a partnership with another state that [says] it wants to wipe Israel off the map? And this is Mr. Blume’s duty to end.”

Ironically, Freiburg also has a city partnership with Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

The controversial partnership triggered the small political party JUPI  to initiate resolutions in the Freiburg city council in 2020 and 2021, urging an immediate end to the partnership. In 2020, JUPI said Freiburg should dissolve the partnership because Iran’s regime engages in “Holocaust denial and the persecution of homosexuals, which cannot be the basis for a friendship.”

The JUPI city council member Sergio Pax said at the time there “can be no dialogue” with Iran because it “does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

The city of Freiburg said in an email to JNS that “incoming inquiries cannot be processed promptly at the moment.” Blume refused to answer numerous press queries. The head of the German-Israel friendship society, the Green party politician, Volker Beck, who has faced criticism from the German-Iranian publicist Saba Farzan for allegedly abandoning Israel at crucial times, declined to comment.

There is scarce civil society or political opposition to Iran’s theocratic state in Germany. The popular German-Jewish commentator Henryk M. Broder told the Swiss daily NZZ on Tuesday: “Most Germans, including our politicians, do not have a problem with Iran, which clearly and openly declares that it wants to destroy Israel.”


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