Amidst months of continuous protests in Iran and calls for regime change on the ground, the UN Human Rights Council (UNCHR), which features Cuba, China and Pakistan, is evidently taking a different approach, in what many activists consider to be a slap in the face to Iranian protesters whose rights are systematically violated.
The UNCHR has invited Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to address the body for its annual opening session on February 27th, despite the Islamic republic arresting thousands of protesters as well as torturing and beating them.
The Islamic Republic has also faced intense scrutiny in recent months over its human rights violations and institutionalized discrimination against Iranian women, ultimately culminating in the removal of Iran from the UN’s women’s commission in December 2022.
The February 27th invitation has been met with harsh criticism from countries, NGOs, and human rights activists, and there have been widespread calls for all democratic nations to walk out of the event when the Iranian FM takes the podium — an effort led by NGO UN Watch.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch said, “It cannot be business as usual at the U.N.’s top human rights body when the representative of this murderous regime is invited to the podium. We are calling on all democracies to show solidarity with the oppressed people of Iran by walking out of the room when he is given the floor, just as they did when Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke at the same assembly last year.”
Neuer told Ynet that the hashtag for the call to action, #WalkoutIRI, has been shared millions of times and has the support of numerous Iranian dissident voices such as Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad and Iranian actress Elnaaz Norouzi.
“Democracies who care about human rights should walk out…the regime of Ayatollah Khamenei is a criminal regime…a regime that kills tortures rapes hangs and blinds its own people does not deserve to be given a platform,” said Neuer.
More than 30 letters have been sent to democratic countries calling on them to walk out of the session. As of the time of publication, Neuer said European and other democratic countries had not confirmed whether or not they would take part in the walkout.
Israel has also condemned the invitation with Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan. "The decision to invite Iran’s Foreign Minister to address the Human Rights Council represents the willful misuse of this Council’s mandate," he told Ynet.
"Iran is the world’s worst women’s rights abuser and oppresses members of the LGBTI+ community. The regime kills its own citizens to maintain its power over the Iranian people. It sponsors terror proxies in the Middle East and exports its terror around the world, as can be seen clearly in Ukraine.”
The UN’s human rights body has long been viewed as a core example of the UN’s bias and hypocrisy due to the disproportionate condemnation of Israel and neglect of other global human rights issues such as the situation in Iran today. Since its founding, it has issued 99 condemnations against the state of Israel, yet only 12 against Iran, 1 against Russia and 0 against China, Cuba, the Taliban, and Pakistan.
“At a time when the Iranian people are protesting for regime change, the international community has an opportunity to help usher in a new era. Instead, by granting legitimacy to this regime, the UN continues full speed ahead with its moral bankruptcy and utter hypocrisy. History will show that the Human Rights Council is a sham and those who worked to invite the foreign minister are complicit in the oppression and murder of innocent Iranians,” said Erdan.
The UNCHR’s opening session on February 27 will also include comments from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as well as addresses from the foreign ministers of the UK, Germany, Sweden, France, Belgium, Norway, and approximately 30 other countries. For many protesters in Iran, it seems a walk out by democratic countries would be a strong and long overdue rebuke of the Islamic Republic of Iran.