Iran was kicked out of the United Nations women’s agency on Wednesday in a U.S.-led vote that comes months into Tehran’s brutal crackdown on an uprising organized by women and young people demanding the end of the Islamic Republic’s rule.
The resolution, backed by 29 members of the U.N. Economic and Social Council, was the strongest symbolic gesture so far by the United Nations in response to Iran’s efforts to quell a women-led uprising that began in September. In late November, the U.N.’s Human Rights Council voted to create an independent fact-finding mission to investigate and document Iran’s human rights violations.
The U.S.-backed resolution, co-sponsored by more than a dozen allies, immediately removes Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women, a body tasked with protecting and promoting women’s rights around the world, for the remainder of its four-year term.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in an interview that the action against Iran sends a twofold message.
“First is to the government of Iran that we will hold them accountable,” said Ms. Thomas Greenfield. “I think more important is the message it sends to Iranian women. I think it sends a strong message: We are here for you, we’ve got your back, we are going to stand with you.”
The resolution passed 29 to 8 with 16 abstentions, marking the first time a member state had been removed from the U.N.’s women’s body. Russia, China and some of Iran’s other political and economic allies voted against the resolution, condemning it as a politically inspired interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation.
Nationwide protests demanding the end of the Islamic Republic’s rule have convulsed Iran for nearly three months.
The protests were set off by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman in the custody of the morality police on allegations that she violated mandatory hijab rules. Women and young people have led the protests under the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom,” an anthem that has unified various movements under its umbrella, from labor unions to ethnic groups.
Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said her Twitter page has been flooded with thank-you messages from Iranian women. Before the vote on Wednesday, a group of prominent Iranian women’s rights activists, among them Narges Mohammadi, who is currently in prison, signed a letter asking the U.N. to remove Iran from the women’s body.
Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the chamber on Wednesday that the resolution amounted to a “hostile policy” by the United States against the Iranian people and “would be exceedingly dangerous to the U.N. system’s integrity.”
Iranian women’s rights activists have been fighting for four decades against discriminatory laws related to mandatory dress codes, divorce, child custody and inheritance after the Islamic revolution of 1979 reversed some of their rights and imposed new restrictions.