Published On: Wed, Nov 2nd, 2022

U.S. calls for expulsion of Iran from U.N. panel on women

The United States on Wednesday called for Iran to be expelled from a U.N. commission on women, citing the regime’s “systematic oppression” of women and its violent crackdown on street protests.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said it was not enough to condemn Iran’s “brutal acts of repression and violence” and that “we must back up our words with action.”

Speaking at the U.N., Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. will work with other countries to remove Iran from the 45-member U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, saying the international community could not allow the commission’s work to be “undermined from within.”

“Iran’s membership is an ugly stain on the commission’s credibility. In our view, it cannot stand,” the ambassador told a U.N. meeting convened by the U.S. and Albania. 

The move comes after Iranian activists abroad and human rights groups urged the Biden administration to rally other countries to remove Iran from the U.N. commission, arguing Tehran should face international isolation over its response to the protests.

Iranian women have been at the forefront of protests across the country since a 22-year-old woman from the country’s Kurdish region, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody in September. Amini was arrested for allegedly failing to comply with Iran’s strict dress codes that require women to fully cover their hair and their bodies.

Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration will join forces with other countries to remove Iran from the commission and “will look for opportunities to raise this issue in every applicable U.N. forum.”

“Change in Iran should only come from within Iran. But that does not absolve the world of the obligation to stand with the Iranian people as they protest for women, for life, and for freedom,“ she said, echoing the slogan that has been the hallmark of more than six weeks of protests.

The U.S. also supports establishing a special U.N. commission to investigate Iran’s treatment of peaceful protesters and to hold responsible Iranian officials accountable, Thomas-Greenfield told reporters later. 

Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement that “Iran has demonstrated through its denial of women’s rights and brutal crackdown on its own people that it is unfit to serve on this commission.”

At the U.N. meeting, Thomas-Greenfield said “while Iran’s systemic oppression of women is not new, thanks to the bravery of the Iranian people, the regime’s abuses have been brought to the fore. “

“Across Iran, security forces have detained and tortured peaceful protestors. They have killed hundreds of people — and badly injured many more — in bloody crackdowns. And they have tried to silence dissent by detaining dozens of civil society activists, journalists, and lawyers,” the American diplomat said. 

Human rights groups have made similar allegations and issued detailed accounts of the crackdown. Two rights groups, Norway-based group Iran Human Rights and the U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency, said last week that more than 250 protesters have been killed since the protests began. The death toll includes more than 20 protesters under the age of 18, according to Amnesty International.

The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women is designed to promote women’s rights and shape global standards on gender equality, according to the U.N. Iran, which ranks 143 among 146 on the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap index, was elected to the commission in May by secret ballot.

Iran has rejected international criticism of its response to the protests and denied it has violated the human rights of Iranian citizens or killed unarmed demonstrators.

Just as diplomats met at the U.N., Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tweeted that the “riots” in recent weeks were the result of a plot by the country’s enemies.

“The enemy started a hybrid war. The U.S., Israel, some sly, vicious European powers, & certain groups used whatever they had to do this,” he tweeted.

Iran’s U.N. ambassador Amir Saied Iravani condemned the U.N. meeting hosted by the U.S. and Albania, saying it amounted to an attempt to meddle in his country’s political life.

“The objective of today’s meeting is clearly to interfere in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state,” Iravani said, calling it “a flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter and international law, upon which the international legal order is founded.”

Iravani said it was “ironic” that the U.S. was criticizing Iran’s human rights record because he said Washington had inflicted suffering on Iranians through “decades-long brutal sanctions.”

The ambassador also said Iranian authorities had exercised restraint in their response to the protests, but that approach should not be seen as a sign of “weakness.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always been and continues to be committed to the promotion and protection of human rights,” he said.

Iran’s constitution respects the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and the government has always upheld those rights but “protests should not lead to violence and destruction, chaos, or instability,” he said.

At the meeting, which included U.N. Security Council members and other states, envoys from the U.K., Ireland, Norway and other countries joined the U.S. and Albania in condemning Iran’s treatment of women and its response to recent protests. Before the meeting, Canada and New Zealand called for Iran’s expulsion from the U.N. commission.

Javaid Rehman, the U.S. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, British actress Nazanin Boniadi, who was born in Iran, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights lawyer who now lives outside of the country, also addressed the U.N. meeting.

“It’s time for us to stop abetting the Islamic Republic of Iran and start supporting the freedom-loving people of Iran,” said Boniadi.

Women in leadership positions from 13 countries and other prominent female figures, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad recently signed an open letter calling for governments to immediately remove Iran from the U.N. commission.

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