GENEVA, April 14 – The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch today called on Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders (see letter below) to fire a senior human rights diplomat for a series of embarrassing tweets defending the election of Iran’s regime to the board of UN Women because, in her words, “Iran is not misogynist,” its “main religious structure was built for a woman,” and “in [the] metro people stood up for me and gave me all the presents.”
Bregje Wijsenbeek, a senior political officer dealing with human rights at the Dutch embassy in Pretoria, posted her bizarre statements in response to a condemnation of Iran’s election to UN Women that was courageously reposted on Twitter by the Executive Director of that organization, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo.
Criticized online, Ms. Wijsenbeek attempted to defend her tweets, saying that her defense of Iran’s record on women’s rights was motivated by her opposition to “hate,” “ignorance,” “strong opinions,” and “stereotypes.”
Human rights activists, however, expressed alarm. “It is astonishing that a Dutch diplomat would attempt to deny widely known facts about Iran’s abysmal record on women’s rights, which the General Assembly has just documented in detail,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer.
“Her statements are an insult to the oppressed women of Iran and to human rights defenders everywhere. They show a glaring lack of judgment. We’re calling on The Netherlands to make their position clear, and to fire this denier of Iranian misogyny.”
Letter from UN Watch to Bert Koenders, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, April 14, 2015 | PDF
Dear Minister Koenders,
We write to convey our alarm at a series of bizarre and embarassing Twitter posts today by one of your diplomats, Ms. Bregje Wijsenbeek—whose account describes herself as a senior political officer dealing with human rights—in which she incomprehensibly defends the Islamic Republic of Iran as “not misognyst.” Worst of all, she did so in response and in purported rebuttal to the UN Women Executive Director’s reposting of a condemnation of Iran’s absurd recent election to the executive board of that global UN agency.
Ms. Wijsenbeek tweets include:
Excellency, as you know, sexual discrimination, denigration of women, and violence against women are manifesations of misogyny, and Iran has been denounced for these gross violations numerous times by the UN General Assembly, most recently in Resolution 69/190 of December 2014, which condemned Iran’s “pervasive gender inequality and violence against women and ongoing discrimination against women and girls in law and in practice.” Iran was likewise condemned for the same gross and systematic discrimination against women in the reports to the Human Rights Council’s 28th Session by the UN Secretary-General, and by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran.
Ms. Wijsenbeek’s shocking defense of this regime’s record on women’s rights is an insult to the women of Iran and to human rights defenders worldwide. She should should be fired.
We urge you also to clarify the position of the Netherlands on Iran’s election to this board and on its dark record of systematic misogyny.
Hillel C. Neuer