Amid spirited debate, the Economic and Social Council today adopted a draft resolution on removal of Iran from membership in the Commission on the Status of Women for the remainder of its 2022‑2026 term, citing its oppression of women and girls.
Adopted by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 8 against (Bolivia, China, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Russian Federation, Zimbabwe), with 16 abstentions, the draft “Removal of the Islamic Republic of Iran from membership in the Commission on the Status of Women for the remainder of its 2022‑2026 term” (document E/2023/L.4) had the Social Council express concern over actions of the Government of Iran since September 2022 to increasingly suppress human rights of women and girls, using lethal force that has resulted in the deaths of peaceful protestors. By the text, the Social Council decided to remove with immediate effect Iran from membership in the Commission on the Status of Women for the remainder of its 2022‑2026 term.
Introducing the draft, the representative of the United States said it answers the call of civil society voices in Iran. On 13 September, when Mahsa Amini, a student, stepped off a train in Tehran, she was accosted by the so‑called “morality police” and accused of wearing her headscarf improperly. She was thrown in a police van and reportedly beaten on her way into custody. Mahsa fell into a coma and three days later, while still in police custody, she died. “She was killed for the crime of being a woman,” she said, noting that the Iranian Government assumed that Mahsa’s death would just be another statistic, a little addition to its long record of State-sponsored violence against women. However, two brave women reporters, Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammedi, told her story.
In response to Mahsa’s death, Iranian women and men stood up to protest, demanding their basic human rights, she said. The Iranian government responded with brutality, she stressed, adding that they threw the reporters Niloufar and Elaheh into solitary confinement. Young women and girls have been killed or disappeared for speaking out, while Government security forces have reportedly detained and tortured thousands of people and killed hundreds of peaceful protestors. Men supporting women in the streets are now being targeted with the death penalty. The reason for removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women is straightforward, she continued: The Commission is the premier United Nations body for promoting gender equality and empowering women. It cannot do its important work if it is being undermined from within, she noted.
A recorded vote was requested.
Speaking before the vote, the representative of Iran decried yet another evidence of the United States' hostile policy toward Iranian people, particularly women, pursued under the guise of defending human rights. Washington, D.C., and its allies have interfered with the toppling of multiple legitimate Governments, he asserted, adding: “If they are unable to restore their puppet Government to power, they will stage a coup; if they are unable to halt your progress in science, technology, and nuclear energy, they will assassinate your scientists; if you refuse to obey or bow to their oppressive policies, they will apply maximum pressure and impose unilateral coercive measures even on pharmaceuticals; and if they are unable to prevent you from joining an international body, they will do whatever it takes to expel you.”
The United States’ unlawful request to remove an elected member from the Commission contravenes the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, notably its basic notion of sovereign equality of States in membership with equal participation in all multilateral forums, which has been recognized as the main pillar of multilateralism, he continued. This illegal conduct might also create a dangerous precedent with far‑reaching consequences, he cautioned. Describing the request as another stark example of Washington, D.C.’s, hypocrisy, he said that, while the consequences of Israel's occupation on the Palestinian people are on the Social Council agenda, the United States has remained silent on Israel's violations of Palestinian women's rights. Iran categorically rejects and strongly condemns the draft resolution, and urges Social Council members to vote against it, he stressed.
Numerous delegates voiced support for the resolution, with the representative of the United Kingdom describing the death of Mahsa Amini as a shocking reminder of repression facing women and girls in Iran. Since her death, the Iranian people’s message has been clear: They will no longer tolerate violence and oppression at the hands of their own Government. The United Kingdom will vote in favour of the resolution to remove Iran from the Commission, she noted. The severity of Iran’s brutal State-sponsored use of force against protesters calling for “Woman, Life, Freedom” over the past several weeks have appalled the world, she stressed, adding that 350 people have died, including over 60 children, and 14,000 people have been arrested. Iran has begun executing people for exercising their right to peaceful assembly, she said.
Echoing her concerns, the representative of Australia raised concern about Iran’s brazen onslaught against the human rights of its citizens and persecution of women and girls. From dictating what a woman should wear to how a girl should speak, Iran’s actions demonstrate that it uses every available tool of oppression against its women. It is unacceptable that a country that flagrantly violates the human rights of women and girls serves on the Commission, he stressed.
The representative of New Zealand, expressing concern about the continued violence, deaths, and deteriorating human rights situation in Iran, called for independent investigations and condemned the recent imposition of death penalty sentences on protestors. Expressing support for the removal of Iran from the Commission, she added that its mandate includes the promotion of women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Members who have a “seat at the table” should act in accordance with this mandate, she said, adding that this extraordinary action of removing membership was taken after careful consideration.
Along similar lines, the representative of Guatemala expressed support for the draft resolution, noting that no State has an impeccable record in gender equality and women’s empowerment, but belonging to the Commission means acknowledging that as a problem and committing to action to address it.
The representative of Liberia said that women and girls in Iran are feeling the brunt horrific human rights violations there. “We cannot sit by idly” watching Iran’s actions, she said, encouraging all members to remove Iran from the Commission.
The representative of Israel noted that the worst women’s rights offender in the world can hold a leadership position on the Commission, which is alarming. Whoever does not support the resolution is complicit in the murder of women, he said, adding that the regime in Iran embodies evil just as Hitler’s Nazi regime did.
Meanwhile, other delegates opposed the draft resolution, with the representative of the Russian Federation noting that the purpose of convening the meeting today is Washington’s decision to pressure its political opponent and purge the Commission on the Status of Women from a sovereign player by violating the Social Council existing Rules of Procedure. On the death of Mahsa Amini, he said the Iranian Government should take any measures to prevent such tragedies in the future. Each State has the obligation to maintain public order in the country by methods that do not counter their obligations under international law. However, the Russian Federation does not recall the Social Council convening meetings to discuss memberships of the United Kingdom, France, Germany or Poland after the brutal oppression by their law enforcement of peaceful protests, including with the use of water cannons and service dogs.
Further, he stressed that the Social Council did not meet regarding membership of the United States in the Commission after the wave of violence following the death of George Floyd. Moreover, it did not question membership of the United States in the Commission after the death of Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by the United States Capitol Police during the political protest in January 2021. Co‑sponsors of the draft resolution should first and foremost focus on correcting their own violations of human rights, he asserted, adding that, if adopted, this draft will create a dangerous precedent of removing, without any basis, a member who was elected democratically.
Echoing his stance, the representative of Belarus, associating herself with the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, added that international multilateral efforts to improve the situation of women and girls requires cooperation and not exclusion. The current draft is graphic proof that there’s a breakdown in the multilateral system, she said, adding that it deepens the accusatory rhetoric and hostility in the international arena.
In the same vein, the representative of Venezuela, speaking for the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations, said the United Nations is based on the equality of States. Arbitrary interpretations of the Charter not only fall short of upholding multilateralism, but run the risk of undermining the system of international relations, he said. No provision for termination of a member of the Economic and Social Council or any of its functional commissions which have been rightfully elected and backed by the endorsement of relevant regional geographical groups was included in the Rules of Procedure of the Social Council, which were agreed on by Member States. Speaking in his national capacity, he added that the draft resolution sets a dangerous precedent and imposes a moral superiority that does not exist.
Similarly, the representative of China opposed adoption of the draft, adding that it is “full of flaws” and has no basis in law. Removing a democratically elected member of the Commission runs counter to fairness and democracy. Moreover, if adopted, the text does not help solve any problems with regard to easing the situation in Iran. Instead, it will intensify grievances, escalate confrontation and further complicate the situation of women in Iran. He also stressed that there is no mention of the impact of unilateral coercive measures ‑ imposed by sponsors — on Iranian women. The real intention of the draft is to turn the United Nations bodies into instruments to serve political agendas, he said, rejecting division and confrontation.
The Chair noted a request from the Russian Federation for a legal opinion on the draft resolution. The representative of Canada said the legal opinion can be requested after a vote. Responding, the Russian Federation’s delegate said “let’s not be afraid of the legal opinion.” Countering, Canada’s representative said there must be a vote on the motion to request a legal opinion. The representative of New Zealand said that such a proposal should be made 24 hours in advance in writing.
The Council decided not to waive rule 54 of the Rules of Procedure of the Economic and Social Council and the requirement of 24 hours by a recorded vote of 21 against to 12 in favour, with 11 abstentions.
The Council then adopted draft resolution “L.4” by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 8 against (Bolivia, China, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Russian Federation, Zimbabwe), with 16 abstentions.
In explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Iran rejected the resolution, describing its adoption as an attack on democracy. Expressing concern that the United States is undermining the principles of the Charter and manipulating the Social Council’s Rules of Procedure, she said it is tragic that an organization created for multilateralism is hosted by a country that promotes unilateral international bullying.
“This political adventure is not in the interests of the Economic and Social Council, Commission on the Status of Women or Iranian women and girls,” she continued, highlighting systematic racial discrimination in the United States towards African American, Muslim and Indigenous women and girls. Moreover, Canada must look at its own history of violence against Indigenous women and ethnic cleansing of Indigenous children, she said. She also underscored the irony of Israel lecturing on women’s rights, while violating the human rights of Palestinian women and girls, including through the recent killing of a Palestinian journalist.
Also speaking in explanation of position after vote, the representative of the Czech Republic, on behalf of the European Union, expressed his unwavering support to woman in Iran. He condemned the widespread and disproportionate use of force by Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters, including women and girls. Further, he firmly opposed the death penalty and urged the Iranian authorities to release all those unjustly detained, including arrested protestors and human rights defenders.
Also speaking were representatives of North Macedonia, Panama, Brazil, Syria, Albania, Pakistan, Indonesia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria and Argentina.