Martin Fletcher, Times UK (link to original article)
July 16 2010
Pressure groups led by Iranian exiles are demanding that the country be thrown out of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
They have seized on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the mother given 99 lashes and sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery.
“Such a regime has no place at the table when it comes to setting global gender policy in the 21st century,” said Maria Rohaly, co-ordinator of Mission Free Iran. “By defending the practice of stoning, the Islamic Republic has itself publicly and on the global stage provided the basis upon which the world must insist that it be immediately removed from the commission.” [MFI note: click for letter-writing campaign]
Maryam Namazie, spokeswoman for Iran Solidarity, said: “For Iran to be sitting on such a committee is tragic and outrageous. It’s like having a South African apartheid government sitting on the Commission for Racial Equality. How is it possible?”
Ahmad Fatemi, of the International Committee Against Executions, said it was “obscene and unacceptable that a country like Iran gets a seat on this committee. It is rewarding the Islamic Republic for its atrocities.”
Fifteen Iranians are thought to be awaiting execution by stoning, all but three of them women. In Tabriz prison, where Ms Ashtiani has been incarcerated for five years, they include Azar Bagheri, 19, who was forced into marriage at 14, convicted of adultery on her husband’s say-so and has twice been subjected to mock stonings as she is not yet old enough to be executed.
Stoning is simply the most egregious form of discrimination suffered by Iranian women. Their evidence in court is worth half that of a man; they have severely curtailed rights of inheritance, divorce and child custody; they are forbidden to travel without their husband’s permission; and must cover their heads and bodies whenever they go out. Women’s right activists are routinely harrassed, arrested and imprisoned.
In April Iran gained a four-year seat on the commission, a move trumpeted by state media because only one other country, Thailand, applied for the two vacant slots allocated to Asia. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of several outraged members of the US Congress, said: “That an Iranian regime that shoots and stones women would be ‘elected’ to a UN body supposedly dedicated to women’s rights adds a whole new disgusting twist to the ongoing saga of Iran exploiting the UN.”