Activists Urge U.N. Walkout on Iran’s Top Diplomat Ahead of Human Rights Summit

GENEVA, February 17, 2023 —  Human rights activists, lawmakers and celebrities have joined a worldwide campaign now going viral on social media that calls on foreign ministers to walk out on Iran’s top diplomat when he makes a rare visit to Europe in order to address the United Nations Human Rights Council at its upcoming annual summit in Geneva on February 27th. See online appeal here.

UN Watch, an independent non-governmental human rights organization in Geneva, sent formal requests to more than 30 UN delegations calling on them to stage a walkout when Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian begins his address on February 27.

Letters have been sent to Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK, and the US.

Campaign Going Viral: Appeals from Rights Activists, Lawmakers, Bollywood Actress  

The campaign to walk out on the Iranian foreign minister has already gone viral on social media with the hashtag #WalkoutIRI, spearheaded by UN Watch and advanced by prominent Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad, London-based Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati and Dutch Green Party MEP Tineke Strik.

More than 100 prominent figures, including lawmakers, human rights advocates, actors, academics, journalists, civil society activists and tech entrepeneurs have endorsed the call on countries to walk out on Iran’s foreign minister on February 27th.

“I urge EU and Member States representatives to respond to this call and walk away out of the Human Rights Council if Iran’s foreign minister takes the floor. Stand up for democracy and human rights,” tweeted the European Parliament’s Strik.

Campaigners also include Elnaaz Norouzi, an Iranian-born Bollywood star with more than 5 million followers on Instagram and Facebook, who today posted a video urging countries to walk out on Abdollahian, which has already garnered 100,000 views.

“We call on all nations with a conscience to show it — by walking out on Iranian foreign minister Amir Abdollahian. Democracies walked out last year on the foreign minister of Russia, another criminal regime, and that’s what they need to do on Iran. A regime that kills, tortures, rapes , hangs and blinds its own people doesn’t deserve to be given a platform. We can’t stop him from coming, but we can do the right thing. Walk out on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Norouzi.

The actress, whose family fled Iran for refuge in Germany, has been an outspoken advocate for human rights in Iran, and made headlines last year with her video against the regime’s morality police, in which she was seen stripping down from a burqa to a bikini.

“In the past few months, hundreds of protesters in Iran have been killed, many more wounded, and 18,000 taken away and thrown behind bars,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, who also appeared in today’s Instagram video appeal. “It cannot be business as usual at the U.N.’s top human rights body when the representative of this murderous regime is invited to the podium.”

Appeal From Founder of Iranian Women’s Rights Movement

In a tweet with 780,000 views, Masih Alinejad, who founded a mass movement online in support of Iranian women’s rights and was twice targeted by the regime for kidnapping and assassination, called on countries “to leave the hall on February 27 during the presence of Amir Abdollahian, the representative of the most anti-women government in the world, and not to sit during the speeches of those who have enslaved Iranian women for four decades.”

“The message of protest against the Islamic Republic by countries that believe in women’s rights should be sent everywhere, firmly and continuously.”

Democracies Walked Out on Russia’s Lavrov Last Year 

A schedule of dignitaries’ speeches circulated by the UN shows that foreign minister Amir-Abdollahian is scheduled to speak on the first day of the Human Rights Council opening at 2:11 pm, right between the foreign ministers of Norway and Sweden.

Also speaking that day will be the foreign ministers from France, Germany, the UK, Austria, Belgium, and some 30 other countries. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN human rights chief Volker Türk will open the summit.

A walkout such as the one requested by activists would not be unprecedented. At last year’s opening of the UNHRC, more than 100 diplomats from some 40 Western countries and allies including Japan walked out of a speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the top U.N. human rights forum. They also walked out on Iran’s president at a UN Human Rights Council racism conference in 2009, and at the General Assembly in 2011.


UN Watch