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Iran is suspended from the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Iran has been kicked out of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The Biden administration argued that it should have been an easy call. Iranian women have been protesting for their basic human rights and have faced a brutal crackdown from authorities. But Iran was elected to the commission, and some countries don't like the precedent the U.S. is now setting, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, says Iran's membership was a stain on the credibility of the main U.N. body that promotes gender equality.

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LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Today, we remove that stain. The United States stood with these women. We knew this was the right thing to do.

KELEMEN: Twenty-nine members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council voted to expel the Islamic Republic of Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women. Eight opposed the move and 16 abstained. Iran's ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, accused the U.S. of undermining the rule of law in the U.N. system.

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AMIR SAEID IRAVANI: Today, we are witnessing yet another evidence of United States' hostile policy toward the Iranian people.

KELEMEN: China, Russia and others pointed out that Iran was elected to the Commission on Women, and they blasted the U.S. for trying to change the rules. China's ambassador charged the U.S. with, quote, "naked bullying, hypocrisy and double standards." Israel's ambassador, Gilad Erdan, charged the U.N. with hypocrisy, saying many members are whitewashing the crimes of oppressive governments.

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GILAD ERDAN: Iran should never have received a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women. This is only part of the moral distortion that has made the U.N. so impotent.

KELEMEN: He said countries should do much more to support Iranian women who are demanding basic rights. The protests were sparked in September by the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish Iranian woman known as Jina to her family, who was in custody of Iran's morality police. Since then, several hundreds of protesters have been killed and thousands arrested. Iran has also begun to execute some protesters, alarming human rights activists like Hadi Ghaemi.

HADI GHAEMI: We've had two young men killed in the matter of four days during the past week, and there are nearly 20 people already have been through the sentencing and could be executed any time. And I'm afraid if they manage to get away with it, they could go up to hundreds of executions in the coming weeks and months.

KELEMEN: Ghaemi, who runs the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, says he's also getting more troubling reports about sexual violence against women and girls now in jail in Iran. He calls the vote to expel Iran from the Commission on Women a, quote, "minimal act" and wants to see a more concerted diplomatic push against the Iranian regime. Louis Charbonneau of Human Rights Watch echoes that.

LOUIS CHARBONNEAU: Let's not kid ourselves. Today's justified action by U.N. member states is a far cry from the real accountability we need, real accountability for those who were responsible for the security forces' lethal violence against protesters after the death of Mahsa Amini and the recent execution of protesters after hasty, unfair trials.

KELEMEN: U.S. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield told reporters that she will press for more action at the U.N.

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THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have to continue to put pressure on Iran because Iran is continuing to attack women in the streets. Women are still in jail. And the rest of this United Nations needs to stand up and call on Iran to cease the actions that they're taking.

KELEMEN: A White House statement says that the recent executions of Iranian prisoners only strengthens the U.S. resolve. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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