Violent extremism, the most critical challenge in the Middle East: Iran's UN envoy

Statement by H.E. Mr. Gh. Hosein Dehghani Ambassador and Charge d’Affaires of the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Security Council Open Debate on “Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts: Countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorism”:

Mr. President,

I wish to thank you for organizing today’s debate, which is a timely opportunity to exchange views on narratives and ideologies of terrorism. I also thank Mr Jan Eliasson, Sheikh Mohi El-Din Afifi and Mr. Steven A. Crown for their comprehensive briefings, and commend al-Azhar University for the steps it takes to thwart extremist narratives. I should also condemn the terrorist attacks by Daesh, today, in Bagdad and the one, last week, against police officers in Egypt, and offer my condolences to the Peoples and governments of Egypt and Iraq and the families of the victims.

Violent extremism is the most critical challenge that the Middle East is currently facing, and as our world recognizes no borders, many other parts of the world are also threatened as a result of this spreading scourge. Syria, followed by Iraq, is among those nations that have borne the brunt of the atrocities and barbarity practiced by extremist groups. At the same time, the blind violence committed by the individuals and groups affiliated with Daesh in such different parts of the world as Lebanon, Nigeria, Tunisia, Libya, Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels and other parts of the globe highlight the widening scope of the threat posed by the rise of violent extremism.

It is evident that the Takfiri ideology, which has nothing to do with Islam, lies at very core of the predicament that we now face. Therefore, the international community needs, first and foremost, to focus on this vicious ideology, and their proponents, that seek to instill hatred and anger in the hearts and minds of the youth everywhere in the Islamic world and beyond. Those with wealth and power have undertaken for many decades to diffuse this mode of thinking in the larger Muslim community and around the globe and force it upon peoples and communities near and far for advancing their shortsighted agenda. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are their first so-called “achievement”, and Daesh and al-Nosra and its affiliates are the latest.

For many decades, the proponents of this perverse ideology have pinpointed individuals susceptible to their schemes, then bankrolled them, provided them with all necessary cover and support, brought pressure to bear on different governments to condone their activities, etc. And the results are the atrocities, rapes, slavery, burnings, beheadings and innovating creative ways of killing that we sadly came to learn about through the media.

What this Takfiri or excommunicative ideology is all about? The small group of demagogues with dubious background who promote it claims to seek to purify Islam from “unbelievers” or “not true believers”. Thus, they preach that those who do not believe and behave exactly like them are “unbelievers” and should be annihilated. Those who believe in this ideology justify, and even glorify, the targeting of an ever expanding list of those they despise, subjecting them to slavery, rape and death. They include whoever does not believe in this ideology in the very long list of “unbelievers”. Shiites, Christians, Jews, moderate Sunnis and the list goes on and on. The atrocities committed against the Yazidi people reflect their intentions and behavior towards minorities. The use of social media to glorify the horrific massacre of 1700 Iraqi air force cadets in Tikrit in June 2014 portends what they intended to do wherever they could prevail.

In parallel with the need to highlight the roots of Da’esh and its affiliates in the historic development of their extreme ideology, we must also be mindful of the strong impact of the bloody recent history of Iraq on the formation and growth of current violent extremist groups. Political and military interventions in the region, especially in the past decade, exacerbated the situation and created an enormously fertile breeding ground for extremists and helped the most radical among them to grow. With the Syrian crisis and the support the extremists received from some wealthy individuals, quarters and states within and outside the region, they found a new breeding space.

Mr. President,

To defeat violent extremism, any war must be fought first and foremost on a cultural and ideological front and those who have so far supported this extreme ideology should reconsider. It is very encouraging that Islamic community leaders, including Sunni scholars and clerics, everywhere, defy Daesh’s threats and denounce and reject this ideology. At the same time, full compliance with international law and the UN Charter is also a must, as it helps drain breeding grounds for extremists. the contributing factors that help create space for extremism, such as occupation of the Palestinian lands by Israeli regime which constitutes the greatest form of terrorism must also be addressed. Other contributing factors like dictatorship, poverty, corruption, discrimination and marginalization are also important. And so is the need to counter Islamophobia, which plays right into the extremists’ hands and lends credence to their messaging. Likewise, funding extremists and condoning their recruitments through lax border control should end. Whatever that undermines the unified front against extremists and provide them with space, such as the invasion of Yemen, should be halted as well.

Finally, Mr. President, Iranians of all ages and affiliation, particularly the youth, have been consistent in rejecting and fighting violent extremism from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to AQAP, Da’esh and others similar forces in Yemen, Iraq and Syria. We also have tried to help fight extremists on the ground and provide a path to combat their ideology, including through promoting Dialogue among Civilizations and “A World against Violent Extremism”.

Let me close Mr. President by rejecting the baseless and worn-out accusations by the representative of the Israeli regime against my Government. When it comes to terrorism, this regime has to be accountable for two reasons: first, it has been engaged in all sort of terrorist activities for creating the regime and, thereafter, for suppressing the legitimate resistance of those whose lands are under its occupation. Second, This regime should also be held accountable as occupation and the misery and grievances it creates are exploited by the extremist groups to recruit and justify their crimes.