May 4, 2021
Western governments are overlooking Iran’s human rights record in their rush to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, activists told The National.
Mariam Memarsadeghi, a pro-democracy campaigner, Kaveh Shahrooz, a human rights lawyer, and other Iran-focused activists urged the US and others on Monday not to abandon Iran’s long-suffering women and minority groups.
They highlighted Iran’s recent election to the UN’s top women’s empowerment body and the US State Department’s decision to overlook the treatment of Iranian journalists on World Press Freedom Day on Monday.
“Western democracies are actively appeasing the regime in all kinds of ways,” said Ms Memarsadeghi.
“Today is World Press Freedom Day, and US Secretary of State [Antony] Blinken has singled out a number of countries that violate the rights of journalists and imprison them. He has not mentioned Iran, even though freedom of expression is violently repressed in Iran.”
In his statement, Mr Blinken called out China, Turkey, Egypt, Russia, Mexico and Afghanistan over the killings, detentions and harassment of journalists – but skipped Iran, which fares comparably poorly, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
This was “no accident”, said Ms Memarsadeghi.
Likewise, Iran was elected last month to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women for a four-year term beginning next year after securing votes from 43 of the 54 member states on the UN’s Economic and Social Council.
“It is akin to electing apartheid South Africa to a commission on the elimination of racism,” said Ms Memarsadeghi.
The ballot was secret, but Tehran’s tally showed that it garnered support from a handful of the council’s European, North American or Australasian members, said Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, a campaign group.
Tehran’s backers were willing to ignore child marriage, honour killings and other women’s rights issues in Iran – which placed 118th out of 167 countries in Georgetown University’s gender-equality ranking – in an effort to revive the flagging nuclear deal, said Mr Neuer.
Diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China are in talks in Vienna this week in an effort to bring Iran and the US fully back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
US President Joe Biden seeks to rejoin the pact that his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. Mr Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran, which responded by breaching many of the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities.
“Having Iran being part of the UN Commission on Status of Women is part of the price that we’re paying,” said Mr Shahrooz.
“The western world is willing to pay any price to preserve good relationships with dictatorships”.
Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately answer The National’s request for comment.
Iran’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, in March rejected a UN criticism of women’s rights in Iran, saying Iranian women lived longer, healthier lives and had ever-better job prospects.