Ahmadinejad Defends Iranian Seat on UN Commission on the Status of Women
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended Iran's election to the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women yesterday as feminists worldwide remain outraged by the country's appointment to the council. Iran's election to the council, was formally announced by the UN on April 23.
According to The Hindu, Ahmadinejad claims that women and girls in the West, particularly Europe, have "no dignity" and that women's rights are highly respected in his country. He reportedly said that a "Woman is a symbol of beauty of God on Earth," but stated Iran will never ratify the Committee to Eliminate All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) because Iran "will never (follow a) basic criterion that leads to the destruction of women". CEDAW is a 1979 treaty that bans gender discrimination that is ratified by 185 countries. The US is the only industrialized western country that has not ratified the treaty.
Just last week, Tehran's police chief, Brig Hossien Sajedinia, announced a crackdown on women who appear to be suntanned in the country. He said, "The public expects us to act firmly and swiftly if we see any social misbehaviour by women, and men, who defy our Islamic values. In some areas of north Tehran we can see many suntanned women and young girls who look like walking mannequins...We are not going to tolerate this situation and will first warn those found in this manner and then arrest and imprison them," according to the Telegraph UK.
A few weeks earlier, a senior Iranian cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, created a firestorm when he blamed earthquakes on women's attire. He said, "Women who do not dress modestly...lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes," reported the Washington Post.
Iran reportedly withdrew a bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council before announcing candidacy for membership in the commission. The Commission on the Status of Women meets annually and aims to "evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide."
Iranian women's rights activists and other feminists worldwide wrote an open letter to the UN opposing Iranian's candidacy for Commission membership. The letter references that Iranian women have been "arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of [the discriminatory] laws" in place in Iran and also states that "the Iranian government will certainly use [Commission membership] to curtail the progress and advancement of women," reported Radio Free Europe.
In February, feminist group Gender Equality in Iran issued a petition that demands "an end to state-led violence and repression" in Iran. It said, "Over the past eight months, the grass-roots protest movement that emerged following the disputed presidential elections has been suppressed by mounting violence. Physical and psychological violence - through arrest, torture, rape, extended imprisonment, and even execution - has been exercised against civil and political activists in Iran. As of now, numerous women activists from various movements - women's, workers, students, civil, and political - are detained and/or have received heavy sentences. The list of detainees grows everyday."
In addition to the continued harassment of activists, during the fall of 2009 a documentary attacking Iran's women's rights movement was broadcast on state television. At about the same time, the head of Iran's state television, Ezatollah Zarghami, declared that state-sponsored television programs will henceforth prohibit women who appear on air from using make-up. Zarghami told the newspaper Eternad that "make-up by women during television programs is illegal and against Islamic Sharia law. There should not be a single case of a woman wearing make-up during a program."
Media Resources: The Hindu 5/5/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 4/14/09, 4/29/10; United Nations Press Release 4/23/10; Washington Post 4/21/10; Radio Free Europe 4/29/10