10 December 2022
In solidarity with Iranian women demanding their rights at the risk of their life and freedom, Impact Iran urges states to revoke the Islamic Republic of Iran’s membership of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (“CSW”). We welcome the leadership of UN member states in taking concrete steps toward acknowledging and supporting women’s voices in Iran by tabling a technical resolution that “decides to remove” Iran “with immediate effect” from the CSW’s membership for the remainder of its tenure, and we call on ECOSOC members to support draft resolution E/2023/L.1 on 14 December 2022.
Such an unprecedented move would also be a healthy signal that states can no longer be a member of a UN body entrusted with the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women at the global level while subjugating women and girls through laws, policies, and state practices that seriously discriminate against them in most aspects of their public and private lives, and condone violence against them, in violation of all pertinent international standards that the CSW is mandated to promote.
The Islamic Republic was elected as a Member of the intergovernmental, norm-setting UN body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women in April 2021, after serving as a member between 2016 and 2019. The CSW’s membership provides Iranian authorities with a platform to pay lip service to women’s rights and shamelessly join its name to the CSW’s initiatives while violently oppressing and suppressing women and girls at home. Iran highlights that its current CSW membership was approved by 43 votes of the 54 ECOSOC members –– wielding its election as a UN ‘stamp of approval’ and proof of the international community’s support of its discriminatory and abusive policies.
Unfortunately, the Islamic Republic does not support the principles and objectives that the CSW is mandated to promote. On the contrary, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran affirmed that “the law exonerates violence against girls and women in a variety of ways.” Moreover, Iran’s experiences as a CSW member did not yield positive developments for the protection of Iranian women’s human rights. Before and during its CSW membership, the Government and its political influencers advanced laws, policies, practices, and narratives to render women and girls as second-class citizens, denying them human rights protections, as well as political and economic opportunities. In November 2021, less than a year after its election to the CSW, Iran’s Guardian Council ratified a population and family law that UN experts denounced as directly violating women’s human rights. Iranian authorities have also been actively keeping the bill for the “Protection, Dignity and Security of Women against Violence” in legal limbo since at least 2013, leaving women and girls in Iran without comprehensive legal protection against violence.
Most recently, officials announced the temporary suspension of the “morality police”, and affirmed that it would be replaced by “updated methods” to enforce the discriminatory and abusive compulsory veiling laws. The morality police is a sub-branch of the police force established by the government to regulate women’s dress and behavior, and in whose custody Jina Mahsa Amini died on 16 September 2022, sparking nationwide protests. Iranian rights defenders and the international community denounced this move as a disingenuous and meaningless distraction and continue to call for a legal and political system that respects Iranian women’s fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The Government’s blatant refusal to protect women’s and girls’ rights has translated into a general license for authorities to discriminate and brutalize them, including through harassment, imprisonment, economic sanctions, torture — and most recently –– summary execution, and extrajudicial killing for ‘crimes’ like appearing in public without appropriately covering their hair and bodies or daring to demand accountability. This is a tried-and-true tactic used by the Islamic Republic to terrorize various parts of Iran’s population and to enforce compliance violently. Last year, in March 2022, the CSW members, concluded its working session by strongly condemning “all forms of violence against women and girls, which are rooted in historical and structural inequalities and unequal power relations between men and women.” Iran’s cannot affirm these words, as it would be parody and bereft of sincerity to live up to the CSW’s mandate.
Last week, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) concluded its 35th Special Session with the establishment of an international, independent Fact-Finding Mechanism (FFM) in response to the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran. The debate leading to this decision focused on calls from Iranians for international intervention to investigate violations of the rights of thousands of Iranians currently demanding accountability for the custodial death of Ms. Jina Masha Amini and protesting – among other things – the appalling conditions that Iranian women and girls face today. During this debate, the Deputy of the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, Ms. Khadijeh Karimi, parroted banal assertions that Iran has “achieved greatly in empowering women and girls as well as in protecting and promoting their roles and rights in social and public life in the past four decades.” Her proclamations are incompatible with the scenes uploaded by Iranians to media platforms of security forces’ using teargas, batons, metal pellets, and live ammunition against peaceful protesters in floundering attempts to crush their resolve. We reject these baseless declarations. Iranians have taken to the streets in every one of Iran’s provinces to assume the CSW’s mantle in defiance and despite Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s pledge to “finish” the “evil” women rights protesters and other demonstrators.
It’s now time for ECOSOC members to heed the evidence generated by the UN Security General and multiple UN experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, Treaty Bodies, and civil society. Their reports and documentation demonstrate that the Islamic Republic has little to no commitment to promoting and protecting women’s and girls’ rights. Many ECOSOC members are also currently UNHRC members that recognized the alarming developments unfolding in the country and acknowledged the need for the international community to take action. We urge these and other member states to remain vigilant in their support of the Iranian people during this pivotal and historical moment. By removing the Islamic Republic’s membership, UN Member States would, again, send a strong signal to Iranians that the international community will not provide the Government with a platform to shamelessly promote its anti-human rights attitudes and conceal its poor human rights record. Such a message would bolster Iranian rights defenders and signify that the international community stands with the Iranian people’s movement for Women, Life, Freedom.
Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran
All Human Rights for All in Iran
Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ)
Baloch Activists Campaign
Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM)
Iran Human Rights
Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC)
Kurdistan Human Rights Association – Geneva (KMMK-G)
Kurdpa Human Rights Organization
Siamak Pourzand Foundation (SPF)
United for Iran