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Iran Voted Off UN Group Focused on Women’s Rights

Countries vote on the removal of Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women at U.N. headquarters in New York, Dec. 14, 2022.
Countries vote on the removal of Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women at U.N. headquarters in New York, Dec. 14, 2022.

Iran was voted off a U.N. women’s body Wednesday for its ongoing crackdown against peaceful protests and its repressive and discriminatory policies toward women and girls.

“Mahsa Amini just wanted to finish her studies. She wanted to start a family. She wanted to live a normal, happy life. She was just a student. But now she’s a martyr,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said of the 22-year-old Iranian woman whose arrest by the country’s morality police and death in custody in mid-September have sparked months of protests.

“We know she was killed for the crime of being a woman,” Thomas-Greenfield said of Amini. “And for too long, for too often, this was not such an unusual thing in Iran.”

In a vote of 29-8 with 16 abstentions, the 54-member Economic and Social Council took the unprecedented step of immediately removing Iran for the remainder of its term on the Commission on the Status of Women, which expires in 2026. The commission meets for two weeks every March to discuss issues of women’s empowerment and achieving gender equality.

Only a simple majority of yes and no votes was required on the U.S.-drafted resolution; abstentions did not count.

At least 350 protesters have died in three months of demonstrations, including 60 children. Another 14,000 protesters have been arrested, and two male protesters have been executed this month.

Iran’s ambassador said the U.S. initiative was politically motivated and its accusations were based on “unfounded claims and fabricated arguments.”

“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,” Ambassador Amir Iravani told the meeting.

He said the move sets a dangerous precedent. China’s deputy ambassador agreed.

"The draft resolution before us, which was prepared by the United States, has ill motives and is full of flaws,” Geng Shuang said.

Several countries expressed concern about setting a precedent, while Russia tried to delay the vote with a procedural move that failed.

Mexico was among the 16 ECOSOC members that abstained.

“We believe that it is better to have Iran inside the CSW than not,” Deputy Ambassador Alicia Buenrostro told reporters ahead of the vote. “We believe that it would not change the situation and the reality of women on the ground if we proceed in this way.”

Several members supporting the resolution invoked the mantra of the demonstrators: “Women, Life, Freedom.”

Australia’s envoy said the international community cannot let the deaths of Mahsa Amini and the protesters be in vain.

“The recent actions by Iran demand action by us – the U.N.’s member states,” Ambassador Mitch Fifield said.

“We are aware that no state has an impeccable record and that there are lots of challenges,” said Guatemala’s ambassador, Carla Maria Rodriguez Mancia. “Nevertheless, to belong to the CSW means that you have to recognize the problem and take specific actions nationally to resolve them. Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not deserve to be a member of the commission at this time.”

Rights groups welcomed Iran’s ejection from the women’s commission as a first step toward accountability but said more needs to be done.

"What’s needed is urgent coordinated pressure on Iran to end its campaign of violence, credible prosecutions of individuals who are directly responsible for these appalling violations of human rights, and an end to the severe discrimination against women,” Human Rights Watch U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau said.

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