Hillel Neuer and his team at UN Watch recently reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran is set to join the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. This is only the latest in the world body’s unmatched record of hot takes and patently incorrect decisions. Allowing Iran onto the commission is proof positive that the United Nations is not serious about protecting women’s rights. In fact, the United Nations shouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone anymore.
Before the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iranian women enjoyed equal rights. Women could participate in society, serve in government and even go about day-to-day life independently without permission from men. Today’s reality is much different; women in Iran are kept both separate and unequal from men. Iran’s fundamentalist Sharia law system requires women to obtain permission from a male relative to work, travel or even uncover their hair in public. According to the Washington-based Middle East Institute, not wearing a hijab, a traditional Islamic hair covering, carries a 15-year prison sentence.
It gets worse. The U.S. government recognizes Iran as a hub for the illicit trafficking of women and girls. Women most assuredly do not receive equal protection under Iranian law. Assailants who physically attack women receive less severe punishment in court than those who attack men. This is the reality for the nearly 43 million women who call the Islamic Republic home. “Honor killings” in Iran are rampant; just last month, an Iranian man named Sajjad Heydari was filmed walking through the streets of Ahvaz, Iran, laughing while holding the head of his teenage wife in one hand and a bloody knife in the other. On March 16, 2022, a video emerged of Iranian regime thugs brutally beating a woman in public with the butt of a military-grade rifle.
The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, which is charged with promoting civil, economic and educational rights for women and girls, should spend considerable time focusing on Iran. But its focus should be on investigating the country’s repressive government, not inviting it to join the commission. Sadly, this is par for the course. Since its inception, the commission has ignored glaring human-rights abuses across the globe. Saudi Arabia, which until recently barred women from driving, is a longtime member of the commission. Afghanistan, Belarus, Iraq and Venezuela are also counted within its ranks. The United Nations cannot address women’s rights while promoting and shielding abusive countries that violate such rights.
Iran’s addition to the commission is disturbing and appalling. When I was 6 years old, my family fled Iran in the back of a pickup truck headed for the deserts of Pakistan. It’s difficult to make one more grateful for the protections that women receive under American law than that. I’m one of the lucky ones; I escaped. By giving those who abuse women in their own community a seat on this global commission, the United Nations has cast a dark shadow on vulnerable women around the world.
While it talks a big game about women’s rights, the world body’s latest smooth move reinforces that it couldn’t care less about the female population. Adding Iran to this commission is not only a sick joke; it’s a slap in the faces of women who live there and are subject to subhuman treatment. It is incumbent upon all who truly care about women’s rights to call this what it is: an embarrassment and a shame.
Dr. Nazarian, originally from Iran, is a physician as well as star of the Emmy-nominated Netflix series “Skin Decision: Before and After.”