“Never forgive, never forget: Laurent Fabius, HIV importer.” These were the accusations written on signs brandished by protesters at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport Wednesday, as they awaited the arrival of France’s foreign minister.
The small protest was short-lived: five demonstrators were arrested, and the rest were dispersed by anti-riot police. However, they are not the only Iranians who remember that Fabius was France’s prime minister during a tainted blood scandal in the 1980s. Many conservative newspapers have brought up the case ahead of his diplomatic visit to Iran, publishing cartoons showing him with blood on his hands.
In the mid-80s, when Fabius served as prime minister, France’s national blood transfusion centre knowingly distributed HIV-contaminated blood products. This caused the deaths of several hundred hemophiliacs in France. When the scandal was exposed, several doctors and politicians were brought to trial, including Fabius. He was, however, cleared of all charges.
The tainted products were also exported to several foreign countries, including Iran, where several hundred patients were contaminated. Iranian health authorities claimed that this led to the very first cases of AIDS in the country.
The blood scandal, however, is not the only reason Iranian hardliners dislike France’s foreign minister: they also criticise him for his tough stance during nuclear negotiations with Iran, and claim he is in Israel’s pocket. Fearing more protests, police beefed up security around the French embassy in Tehran.