“Western democracies are appeasing the Iranian regime,” activists warn

NEW YORK, May 3, 2021 — Iranian human rights activists warned today that Western democracies are appeasing Iran, from refusing to condemn its election to a UN women’s rights commission to reported plans to release $7 billion to the Tehran regime.

The remarks were delivered in a press conference held today in reaction to the recent election of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The event was hosted by the independent human rights group UN Watch, together with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

UN Watch had reported that at least four EU and Western Group democracies voted for Iran’s candidacy, by secret ballot.

The commission describes itself as the “principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

Panelists today called on democracies to clarify how they voted, and condemned Iran’s election. (Click here to watch and read full remarks.)

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, who moderated the panel, said “Iran has absolutely no place on the world’s leading women’s rights commission. To suggest, as many Western diplomats have, that electing the Islamic Republic will allow the regime to learn and improve its rights record is a farce.”

“I am disappointed that the U.S. refused to clearly condemn Iran’s election, as they had done on a similar occasion in 2014, and also that they failed to take leadership and find a candidate to defeat Iran, as they had done in a similar contest in 2010, when the US recruited East Timor to successfully block Tehran from gaining a seat on a related UN women’s rights board. For some reasons, the US is now granting Iran impunity.”

Iranian-born pro-democracy activist Mariam Memarsadeghi called out Western democracies’ “active appeasement of the regime.”

“Democracies are appeasing the regime in all kinds of ways, not just the nuclear negotiations,” she said.

“Secretary Blinken today singled out a number of countries that violate the rights of journalists, but he did not mention Iran. The regime is increasing its repression of Iranian people while democracies are appeasing it, so it’s no accident that this is occurring. There are very large sums of money going to the regime as a result of negotiations on nuclear arms, so we can only expect this to get worse with terrorist proxies and wars,” said Memarsadeghi.

Kaveh Shahrooz, a human rights lawyer and policy expert, described total “shock and revulsion” at Iran’s election to “precisely the institution that the women of Iran should be able to look to defend them against the misogyny and gender apartheid to which they have been subjected for four decades.” He said Iran’s “evil” treatment of women “does not belong in the 21st century.”

“What price are we willing to pay in order to keep Iran happy? We are seeing the cost of engaging with Iran. It was announced Iran may release hostages, and in response the West will release about $7 billion of Iranian money. That’s a price that we’re paying in order to appease a gangster, a mafia state essentially. Having Iran be part of the Commission on the Status of Women is part of the price we’re paying. This is incredibly costly, and the incentives that it provides for Iran and other states that now act badly because they know the Western world is willing to pay any price to preserve good relationships with dictators,” said Shahrooz.

Shaparak Shajarizadeh, an Iranian activist imprisoned for removing her headscarf in defiance of the regime’s compulsory hijab law, and named one of BBC’s top most inspiring women around the world, called Iran’s election to the commission “an insult not only to women in Iran but all women.” She testified on how the Islamic Republic beat, brutalized, and interrogated her in the notorious Evin prison for the crime of removing her hijab in public. “It was the most frightening experience of my life,” said Shajarizadeh.

“The election of Iran is an outrage,” said international rights lawyer and advocate for political prisoners Irwin Cotler, Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and former Canadian Minister of Justice and MP. “Refusing to condemn it is a betrayal of the women of Iran, and of the mandate of the UN Commission with respect to the protection of gender equality, and a betrayal of the values that democracies are sworn to uphold and sustain.”

At Least 4 EU & Western Democracies Backed Iran

Though the ballot was secret, UN Watch has determined that at least four of the 15 EU and Western Group democracies on ECOSOC—which include Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Latvia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—voted for Iran.

In 2017, after a similar secret ballot for the same UN women’s rights commission, a UN Watch campaign led to Belgium’s admission that it voted to elect Saudi Arabia, and to the revelation that the the Belgian government made sure to tell the Saudis that they voted for them.

Democracies React to UN Watch Calls for Vote Clarification

UN Watch’s exclusive report exposing Iran’s election to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women sparked a global firestorm. UN Watch has called on lawmakers to determine how their governments voted.

Lawmakers posed formal challenges in the Dutch parliament, the Canadian parliament, the British parliament and the Norwegian parliament, and questions were also raised by lawmakers and journalists in France, Germany and Switzerland.

Last week, when asked to clarify how the U.S. voted in the recent CSW election, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price repeatedly refused to make any direct condemnation of Iran’s election or of its record on women’s rights, and declined to state how the U.S. voted on Iran’s candidacy.

Click here for full remarks from the panelists

UN Watch