UN council ousts Iran from UN commission backing women

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An Iranian woman holds a portrait of the late Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone attack in 2020, in a pro-government demonstration in front of the United Nation's office in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. The demonstrators condemned calls for the Islamic Republic to be expelled from the UN Commission on the Status of Women by other member countries, following Iranian security forces' continued crackdown on anti-government protests sparked by the death of a women after she was arrested by the country's morality police in September. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

TANZANIA – The U.N. Economic and Social Council voted Wednesday to immediately oust Iran from the U.N.’s premiere global body fighting for gender equality because of its systematic violation of the rights of women and girls, a decision the United States hailed as “historic” and Iran claimed was based on “fabricated allegations.”

The U.S.-sponsored resolution was sparked by Iran’s ongoing brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters who took to the streets in September after the death of a 22-year-old woman taken into custody by the morality police. At least 488 people have been killed since the demonstrations began, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the protests, while another 18,200 people have been detained by authorities.

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The vote in the 54-member council known as ECOSOC to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women for the remainder of its 2022-2026 term was 29-8 with 16 abstentions.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the vote “historic,” the first-ever ouster of a commission member and “the right thing to do.”

“I think we sent a strong message to the Iranian government and we sent a strong message to Iranian women,” she told reporters after the vote.

Before the vote, Thomas-Greenfield cited the death of Mahsa Amini who was accused of wearing her headscarf improperly by the morality police; the solitary confinement of two women reporters who told her story; and the young women and girls who have been killed or disappeared for speaking out along with thousands of protesters reportedly detained and tortured.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the vote shows a growing consensus among the United States and its allies and partners around the world that Iran must be held accountable for “atrocities” such as the recent “horrifying executions” of protesters in Tehran.

Established in 1946, the Commission on the Status of Women plays a leading role in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives around the world and shaping global standards to empower women and achieve gender equality.

Its 45 members, from all regions of the world, are elected for four-year terms by the Economic and Social Council. Iran was elected from the Asian region with 43 votes.

Before Wednesday’s vote, Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani accused the United States of using its “longstanding hostility toward the Iranian people” under “the guise of human rights” to remove Iran from the commission. He then cited efforts by the U.S. and its allies to topple “multiple legitimate governments,” implying that it is also trying to topple Iran’s.

Iravani said the U.S. resolution would impede the advancement of Iranian women who he said are “strong, dynamic, self-sufficient and intelligent” participants in the country’s economic, social and political life.

He called the U.S. resolution “illegal” because the Commission on the Status of Women has no rules on terminating an elected member and warned that it might “create a dangerous precedent with far-reaching consequences.”

After the vote, Iran’s deputy ambassador Zahra Ershadi categorically rejected the resolution and what she called “the baseless and fabricated allegations” made against Iran. She insisted the government protects women’s rights, “condemns any politicization of women’s rights, and rejects all falsehoods and accusations made in particular by the U.S. and certain EU members in this meeting.”

Russia opposed the resolution and before the vote its deputy ambassador, Gennady Kuzmin, accused the U.S. and its allies of deciding “to pressure their political opponents, trying to discredit them, and at the same time purge the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (of) a sovereign and influential player.”

He proposed that ECOSOC should ask for a U.N. legal opinion before the council took action on the resolution on whether a vote was in accordance with U.N. and ECOSOC procedures.

Under ECOSOC rules, such a request requires 24 hours advance notice in writing, and a vote was called on waiving the 24-hour rule. ECOSOC voted 12-26 with 11 abstentions against waiving the 24-hour rule.

So after several more speeches, ECOSOC voted on the U.S. resolution and approved it.

The resolution expresses “serious concern” over Iran’s actions since September “to continuously undermine and increasingly suppress the human rights of women and girls, including the right to freedom of expression and opinion, often with the use of excessive force, by administering policies flagrantly contrary to the human rights of women and girls and to the mandate of the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as through the use of lethal force resulting in the deaths of peaceful protesters, including women and girls.”

Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador, said in an interview after the vote that U.S. legal experts determined that the U.S. resolution was within ECOSOC rules.

“It’s significant in the sense that it sends a message to the government of Iran that what you’re doing is unacceptable to the world -- we’re not going to stand by and buy it,” she said.

“Iran said in the meeting that these were antics by the U.S. government, but we got 29 people to support this one effort to show that the world was behind the people and the women in particular in Iran,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

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