The United States will work to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women, US Vice President Kamala Harris announced Wednesday.
The effort to evict Iran form the 45-member intergovernmental body comes as the Iranian government has tried to suppress nationwide protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of that nation’s so-called morality police.
“The United States believes that no nation that systematically abuses the rights of women and girls should play a role in any international or United Nations body charged with protecting these very same rights,” Harris said in a statement.
“Iran has demonstrated through its denial of women’s rights and brutal crackdown on its own people that it is unfit to serve on this Commission; Iran’s very presence discredits the integrity of its membership and the work to advance its mandate,” she said.
“This is why today the United States is announcing our intention to work with our partners to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women,” Harris said.
Her statement was released just ahead of an informal UN Security Council meeting, co-hosted by the US and Albania, where US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke of the US’ intention to remove Iran from the Commission.
“We must condemn these brutal acts of repression and violence. And, more than that, we must back up our words with action,” she said.
“This is a moment to act with moral clarity. Now, I’ll be honest, this will not be easy – and change is not going to come overnight,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “But right now, the status of women in Iran is the status of women everywhere. Women are counting on us to do the right thing.”
Thomas-Greenfield said that “in the weeks ahead, we will join forces with other Member States – with you here in this room today – who want to protect the power and integrity of the Commission.”
“And we will look for opportunities to raise this issue in every applicable UN forum,” she added.
“Today, we have gathered Security Council members and many other nations. And we are also working closely with our partners to push for action at the Human Rights Council in Geneva and the Third Committee. As we do all of this, let us look to the example of the courageous protestors in Iran. And let us do everything in our power to ensure that Mahsa’s death was not in vain,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“Change in Iran should only come from within Iran,” the ambassador said. “But that does not absolve the world of the obligation to stand with the Iranian people as they protest for women, for life, and for freedom.”
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran Javaid Rehman called for the international community to establish “an independent investigative mechanism to investigate all human rights violations leading up to and since” Amini’s death.
“It is clear that the so-called investigations into the death of Mahsa Amini have failed the minimum requirements of impartiality, independence, and transparency,” he said in remarks at the UN meeting.
Rehman called Amini “an unfortunate victim of state repression and brutality,” noting she was neither the first nor the last victim of that brutality.
In an open letter this week, female leaders, including former first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called for Iran to be removed from the Commission on the Status of Women.
“Because of the Islamic Republic’s appalling record on women’s rights, and in light of the regime’s ongoing, brutal crackdown on protesters, we insist that Iran’s membership to the CSW be revoked,” they wrote. “For every day that Iran remains a member of the Commission on the Status of Women, the body loses credibility.”
The US’s effort to remove Iran from the body is its latest response to Amini’s death and the Iranian government’s crackdown on protesters.
Last week, the Biden administration imposed a slew of new sanctions against Iranian officials involved in that ongoing crackdown. In late September, the US announced sanctions on Iran’s Morality Police following the death of Amini in their custody.
In a statement, the US Treasury Department said it was sanctioning the morality police “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protestors.”
Shortly thereafter, amid internet shutdowns by the Iranian government in the face of widespread protests over Amini’s death, the US government took a step meant to allow technology firms to help the people of Iran access information online.