On December 14, the U.N. Economic and Social Council removed Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women. The United States had submitted the motion in response to Iran’s repression of women and girls, including protesters in 2022. No country had ever been ousted from the panel before. The vote “sends an unmistakable message of support from around the world to the brave people of Iran, and in particular to Iranian women and girls, who remain undaunted despite the brutality and violence perpetrated against them,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Human rights groups welcomed the move, the latest symbolic expression of disgust with the crackdown. “The vote to oust the Islamic Republic from the U.N.’s leading women’s rights body was a significant recognition by the international community of Iranian women's and girls’ struggle for dignity and freedom,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
But Iran’s removal from the women’s rights body was unlikely to have a significant impact on its behavior. Established in 1946, the 45-member Commission on the Status of Women promotes women’s rights and shapes international standards on gender equality. It also monitors progress on women’s empowerment. The panel meets annually in March. Iran had joined the body in March 2022 with the support of 43 out of 54 countries and was supposed to serve a four-year term.
Iran’s membership was an “ugly stain on the commission’s credibility,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said before the vote. The resolution passed with 29 votes in favor, eight against and 16 abstentions. China and Russia – permanent members of the Security Council – along with Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, and Zimbabwe opposed the motion.
Iran condemned the resolution as “illegal” and accused the United States of bullying. “It is not at all unexpected that the United States is taking such unlawful action,” he said. “It contravenes the letter and spirit of the U.N. Charter, notably its basic notion of sovereign equality of States in membership with meaningful and equal participation in all multilateral forums, which has been recognized as the main pillar of multilateralism and the U.N. System. This illegal conduct might also create a dangerous precedent with far-reaching consequences,” U.N. Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani warned in a statement.
The number of nay votes and abstentions reflected uneasiness among member states about the U.S.-led effort. The vote “will undoubtedly create an unwelcome precedent that will ultimately prevent other Member States with different cultures, customs and traditions” from contributing to the commission, Iran, 17 other countries, and the Palestinians warned in a letter to the Economic and Social Council on December 12. The following are statements from U.S. and Iranian officials on the vote.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement on Dec. 14, 2022: “Today’s vote by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to remove Iran from the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women sends an unmistakable message of support from around the world to the brave people of Iran, and in particular to Iranian women and girls, who remain undaunted despite the brutality and violence perpetrated against them by the Iranian regime.
“The protests across Iran, triggered by the tragic death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the so called “morality police,” reveal an Iranian population craving the universal human rights to which every person worldwide is entitled.
In response to these demonstrations, the regime has unsuccessfully attempted to suppress Iranian voices by killing hundreds of peaceful protestors, including dozens of children, and arbitrarily detaining thousands. Iranian courts have issued harsh sentences to protestors, including the death penalty, following sham trials.
The United States is proud to have worked with ECOSOC partners to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women, a body whose values and mission the regime makes a mockery of. The United States reiterates our unwavering support for the people of Iran.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in a statement on Dec. 14, 2022: “Today in a historic vote, the United Nations acted to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women in response to the Iranian regime’s systemic repression of women and girls. This vote is another sign of the growing international consensus on Iran and demands for accountability. The United States is working with our allies and partners around the world to hold Iran accountable for the abuses it is committing against its own people, notably peaceful protesters, women and girls, and the violence it is enabling against the Ukrainian people, as well as its destabilizing actions throughout the Middle East region. Over the last week alone, the United States has issued three separate sets of sanctions targeting Iran’s financing of terror, protest-related human rights violations, and provision of UAVs to Russia for attacks against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. We have acted in coordination with the EU, UK, Canada, Australia, and others who have issued new sanctions under their own authorities. These actions come on the heels of our regular drumbeat of sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program, the welcome decision of the UN Human Rights Council to set up a fact-finding mission to investigate brutal actions Iran is taking against its own people, and last week’s joint statement, signed by the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Iceland, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and Sweden, and the United Kingdom, condemning targeted online harassment and abuse by Iranian authorities against women protestors. The recent horrifying executions in Tehran only strengthen our resolve to expand this growing consensus and pursue all possible mechanisms of accountability against the Iranian regime and its officials responsible for these atrocities.”
Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani in a statement on Dec. 14, 2022: “Today, we are witnessing yet another evidence of the United States' hostile policy toward Iranian people, particularly Iranian women, which is being pursued under the guise of defending human rights and in the form of a removal policy that is specific to the United States and its allies.
“The U.S. and its allies have participated in and interfered with the toppling of multiple legitimate governments via both overt and covert means. If they are unable to restore their puppet government to power, they will stage a coup, if they are unable to halt your progress in science, technology, and nuclear energy, they will assassinate your scientists; if you refuse to obey or bow to their oppressive policies, they will apply maximum pressure and impose UCMs even on pharmaceuticals; and if they are unable to prevent you from joining an international body, they will do whatever it takes to expel you. All these policies, which have been in place for almost 40 years, are intended to impede Iranians' advancement, especially that of women and girls.
“The issue is straightforward. The Islamic Republic of Iran has become a member of the CSW with a high number of 43 votes among the 54 ECOSOC Member States through a transparent and democratic election and with the support of the Asian-Pacific Group.
“The US request is entirely illegal as the Council members are fully aware that there is no precedent in the Council's practice of terminating an elected member's participation in a functional Commission for any alleged reason, nor it is supported by the Council's rule of procedures.
“Despite this, one member—a bullying member notorious for disobeying the UN Charter and international law—intends to pursue its unlawful request to remove an elected member from the Commission, only on the basis of unfounded claims and fabricated arguments, by means of fabricated and demonizing narrative that in turn sets a dangerous precedent and undermining the rule of law at the UN system.
“It is not at all unexpected that the United States is taking such unlawful action against Iran given its long-standing hostility toward the Iranian people, but if carried out, it would be exceedingly dangerous to the UN System's integrity. It contravenes the letter and spirit of the UN Charter, notably its basic notion of sovereign equality of States in membership with meaningful and equal participation in all multilateral forums, which has been recognized as the main pillar of multilateralism and the UN System. This illegal conduct might also create a dangerous precedent with far-reaching consequences.
“This request is simply another stark example of US hypocrisy. The US has made it a standard practice to abuse and derail such valued concepts as human rights in order to achieve its illegitimate political goal, and it has achieved so by utilizing UN platforms and resources.
“The CSW's long-standing resolution recognizing the horrific plight of Palestinian women under Israeli occupation is a prime example of such double standards and hypocrisy. While the consequences of Israel's occupation on the Palestinian people are on the ECOSOC agenda, the US has remained silent on Israel's violations of Palestinian women's rights.
“It is intolerable for the United States to witness strong, dynamic, self-sufficient, and intelligent Iranian women actively participating in economic, social, and political life.
“It is frustrating news for the US: whether we are members of the CSW or not, the Iranian women and girls will engage actively and effectively in many international fora.
“We strongly believe that all Member States should condemn any action that compromises the outcome of the democratic process and establishes a contentious precedent in order to fulfill certain states' narrow political objectives while claiming to be safeguarding human rights.
“Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran categorically rejects and strongly condemns the draft resolution E/2023/L.4, and kindly urges ECOSOC members to vote against it.”
Photo Credit: Tehran Times (CC BY 4.0)