Maleki told Radio Farda he was defecting to protest the Islamic Republic’s “barbaric actions against the Iranian people.”
He is the fourth diplomat to resign in the past year in support of Iran’s opposition movement.
Mohammad Reza Heydari, an embassy counselor in Norway, was the first to defect in January 2010. He forecast that many more would follow him, but there has not been a flood.
Hossein Alizadeh, 45, the deputy head of mission, the Number Two diplomat, in Iran’s embassy in Helsinki, Finland, and Farzad Farhangian, 47, the press attaché at Iran’s embassy in Brussels, Belgium, both left their posts last August.
Some say the small number of defections is because the Foreign Ministry is putting pressure on diplomats through threats against parents or siblings left in Iran.
The latest defector, Maleki, has joined the Green Embassy Campaign, started by Heydari to show “that ex-diplomats of the Iranian regime are now dissidents and against the regime.”
The total number in the Green Embassy Campaign is now seven—the four who have defected since the June 2009 elections plus three other diplomats who had defected in previous years.
The Islamic Republic has remained silent about Maleki’s defection. The Foreign Ministry had ridiculed the previous two defectors, saying they refused to return home for personal reasons that did harm to the national interest.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said in December that over the years about 20 diplomats had not returned home after completing their three-year assignments abroad, a number that is likely to be on the low side in the tradition of official figures. The spokesman also preferred to describe them as refusing to return home, rather than as defectors.
Maleki said his defection was prompted by harsh actions taken against the opposition, with the immediate cause being the suppression of the February 14 protest.
Maleki is optimistic about the future. In his interview with Radio Farda, he said the resignation of Iranian diplomats has “a positive effect as the first step against suppression,” adding that “following recent incidents in Iran and people [leaving the Foreign Ministry], the upcoming events will take us toward victory.”
It isn’t known where Maleki will go to live. Alizadeh was granted asylum in Finland and Farhangian flew to Oslo to join Heydari, who received asylum from Norway.