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March 8 2010

Human Rights Kabuki

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

Happy International Women’s Day! Created in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America (bear with me!), the day “is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights,” according to the United Nations’ website.

It is ironic, then, that this week, the UN – the same body that promotes this day as a “rallying point to build support for women's rights and participation in the political and economic arenas” – is currently considering giving Iran a seat on its Human Rights Council. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Among its presumptive qualifications, says Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, is that last June's elections were ‘an exemplary exhibition of democracy and freedom.’”

There are certainly many nations in the world with deplorable human rights records – but Iran’s has become particularly odious in recent years. My colleague Julie has done an excellent job pointing out the Iranian regime’s many crimes in the post-election period, as well as the key role that women have played in the underground opposition. For a general look at women in Iran, I recommend checking out The Stoning of Soraya M, a true story about a courageous woman victimized in a remote village in Iran. (It just won a 2010 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Foreign Motion Picture, too!)

In protest of this (and the many other concerns that will not be addressed by the Human Rights Council), a group of non-governmental organizations are holding a parallel event in Geneva this week to spotlight the voices that the Council’s sitting members have silenced. The Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy will focus on the human rights of Iranians, Cubans, Tibetans, Uighurs and Burmese.

Patrick Goodenough of CNSNews.com reports:

“Organizers say the summit offers a global platform and forum for dissidents and human rights advocates to discuss their struggles and visions for bringing about change. ‘Regrettably, the chief international body charged with protecting human rights is failing to live up to its mission to stop … abuses,’ they said in a statement, in reference to the 47-member HRC. ‘Strong politicization of the council, driven by bloc-based voting patterns, has led to inaction in face of atrocity and abuse.’”

With such black marks on its record, putting Iran on the Human Rights Council would make a mockery of an already shaky organization. The people of the world deserve better from the United Nations – and it should start by denying Iran a seat.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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