Spain summons Iran ambassador over protests crackdown

Spain summoned the Iranian ambassador Wednesday to express its opposition to the heavy-handed crackdown on mass demonstrations across Iran that have claimed dozens of lives, a diplomatic source said.

Spain summons Iran ambassador over protests crackdown
A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran shows people gathering during a protest for Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic's "morality police", in Tehran on September 19, 2022. - Fresh protests broke out on September 19 in Iran over the death of a young woman who had been arrested by the "morality police" that enforces a strict dress code, local media reported. Public anger has grown since authorities on Friday announced the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in a hospital after three days in a coma, following her arrest by Tehran's morality police during a visit to the capital on September 13. (Photo by AFP)

The protests erupted nearly two weeks ago over the death of a young Kurdish woman in custody who had allegedly fallen foul of Iran’s strict rules on headscarves and modest clothing.

“The foreign ministry has summoned the Iranian ambassador in Madrid to express its objection over the repression of the protests and the violation of women’s rights,” the source said.

The woman, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was visiting Tehran with her family, died after receiving a “violent blow to the head,” her cousin told AFP.

In a statement, the ministry expressed Spain’s “absolute condemnation” of the violence against peaceful demonstrators and in particular its “abhorrence of the violence against Iranian woman and their rights”.

It urged the Iranian authorities to carry out “an independent investigation (into the bloodshed) and to establish responsibility in a transparent, objective and thorough manner” while “ending all arbitrary arrests” of journalists and other citizens exercising their civic freedoms.

Despite the fact the crackdown has drawn condemnation from around the world, Iran’s police said Wednesday they would continue to act against the protesters “with all their might”.

So far, “around 60 people” have been killed since Amini’s death on September 16th, Fars news agency said on Tuesday, a day after officials confirmed they had made more than 1,200 arrests, among them activists, lawyers and journalists.

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Why is Spain not in the G20 (but is always invited)?

Despite photogenic Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appearing at the summit in Bali this week, Spain is not a member of the G20. Why is that, and will Spain ever join?

Why is Spain not in the G20 (but is always invited)?

If you keep up with Spanish social media or its news channels, you might’ve seen in recent days that Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, has been at the G20 meeting in Indonesia.

As they often do with Sánchez, the photography of events have taken priority – at least for the internet – over the policy.

Photos of Sánchez alongside major world leaders, including President Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and French President Emmanual Macron, in the immediate aftermath of a missile landing in NATO member Poland have been widely shared.

Sánchez’s place among these world leaders, and by extension Spain’s position among the major superpowers, some say, confirms the country’s place as a ‘big’ or ‘important’ nation on the global stage.

But the truth is that the Spanish leader was in Bali as a ‘permanent guest as Spain is in fact not a member of the G20.

What is the G20? (And why is Spain not in it?)

The G20, or Group of 20, is according to its own definition “the main international forum for economic, financial and political cooperation, it addresses the great global challenges and seeks to generate public policies that solve them.” 

The 20 countries making up the G20 are the US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, India, China, South Korea, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Turkey, Australia, and this year’s hosts, Indonesia.

Founded in 1999, the G7 countries were joined first by Russia and the 12 major emerging economies around the world.

As Spain was not among the world’s major economies nor was it considered emerging, it was left out the group. 

The group makes up around 85 percent of the global gross economic product, 66 percent of the world’s population, 75 percent of its international trade, and 80 percent of global investments.

US President Joe Biden (C), Britain Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte gather to hold an “emergency” meeting to discuss a missile strike on Polish territory near the border with Ukraine. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Nineteen of the G20 members are in the top 33 economies in the world, and Spain ranks at 14th of the 33, above bigger economies than G20 members Mexico, in 15th, Indonesia, 16th, Turkey 17th, Saudi Arabia 19th, Argentina 21st and South Africa in 33rd.

Spain has the fifth largest economy in the EU, it is the home of the language spoken by 8 percent of the world’s population, according to the Cervantes Institute, and is the second most visited place on earth, attracting 83.5 million tourists a year.

But still, it is not in the G20.

So why is Spain always invited?

The 2008 financial crisis ravaged the Spanish economy and left it in over a half-decade of economic decline.

When the G20 met to address the impending global economic meltdown that year, Spain was not invited.

Yet, in the end José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain’s Prime Minister at the time, was allowed to attend the summit after making an arrangement with the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who let Zapatero take one of the two seats France had at the summit due to Sarkozy being the rotating presidency of the EU at the time.

Since then, Spain has continued to attend the G20 summits as a ‘permanent guest,’ and is the only country with such status.

Will Spain ever join the G20?

Now that Spain has been a permanent member of the G20 for almost 15 years, it seems safe to say that the G20 will not increase its number of formal members anytime soon.

To do so, an existing member would have to removed – unless they want to change the name to G21, or G22 – and this seems unlikely because though there are countries with smaller economies than Spain, their membership of the G20 adds a geographic diversity to the policy making that another European nation like Spain would take away from.

That’s not to say that it might not extend permanent guest status to other countries, however. 

According to the Elcano Royal Institute, a Spanish think-tank focusing international and strategic studies, what Spain needs to do “to consolidate is its role as a permanent guest and eventually opt to be a member if the occasion arises… [is to] provide analyses, positions and proposals that interest it as a country and the other partners in this framework.”