Just moments before Iranian President Ahmadinejad was set to address the Durban Review Conference today, another gathering in the Palais des Nations challenged the U.N. for giving a forum– during a conference meant to address racism and intolerance– to a leader who violates the rights of his own people and incites genocide.
Speaking at a side even organized by UN Watch, Iranian dissident and former prisoner of conscience, Ahmad Batebi, argued that Ahmadinejad does not represent the Iranian people. The Iranian people do not want to wipe Israel off the map nor do they support terrorism, as does the Iranian government. He went on to cite various abuses of the State, noting that 112 students currently languish in Iranian prisons for protesting government policies.
Batebi said that just today he was threatened by a representative of the Islamic Republic, who told him he would be killed at the U.N.
Batebi was followed by Fakhteh Zamani, President of the Association for Defense of Azerbaijani political prisoners in Iran. She addressed the urgent plight of Iranian Azeris who face consistent, state-sanctioned persecution as an ethnic minority.
Canadian MP Irwin Cotler also addressed the gathering, describing Ahmadinejad as a man who incites genocide, stands in violation of the U.N. Charter, and represses his own people. It shames the cause of human rights and anti-racism for such a leader to be a welcome guest at the conference, he said.