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‘Absurd, surreal’: Activists pan Iran’s election to UN forum on women’s rights

Australian academic recently jailed in Tehran expresses befuddlement as Tehran joins Commission on the Status of Women; UN Watch group says 4 Western democracies backed move

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Head-to-toe veiled Iranian women walk at the shrine of Saint Saleh in northern Tehran, Iran, April 6, 2021 (Vahid Salemi/AP)
Head-to-toe veiled Iranian women walk at the shrine of Saint Saleh in northern Tehran, Iran, April 6, 2021 (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Activists have expressed astonishment over the election of Iran to the United Nations’ top forum for women’s rights, apparently with the backing of at least four Western democracies.

“This is surreal,” Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad tweeted Wednesday after Iran joined the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women.

“A regime that treats women as 2nd class citizens, jails them for not wearing compulsory hijab, bans them from singing, bars them from stadiums & doesn’t let them travel abroad without the permission of their husbands gets elected to UN’s top women’s rights body,” Alinejad wrote.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the UN Watch lobby group, said: “It’s absurd — and morally reprehensible. This is a black day for women’s rights, and for all human rights.

“Electing the Islamic Republic of Iran to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” he said in a statement.

While commending the US for demanding that a vote be held on Iran’s membership, Neuer urged the Biden administration to “speak out to condemn the obscene election of Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime to a women’s rights body.”

Australian Academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was imprisoned in Iran for two years on charges of being an Israeli spy and released late last year, tweeted a UN Watch report on the nomination with a meme expressing puzzlement.

The UN’s website describes the commission as the “principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

Iran’s election to the commission came during a secret vote Tuesday by members of the ECOCOC. Lebanon, China, and Pakistan were also elected.

In a follow-up statement Thursday, UN Watch highlighted that the results of the voting showed that it was backed by at least four Western democracies. There are 54 members of the UN’s Economic and Social Council, which operates the commission, and of those 15 are Western democracies.

Iran’s entry was backed by 43 countries, meaning at least four were Western democracies, UN Watch said.

It called on lawmakers from Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Latvia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States to demand their governments reveal how they voted in the election of “Iran’s misogynistic regime.”

Last August a report by UN Secretary-General António Guterres found “persistent discrimination against women and girls” in Iran.

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