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Iran: The Politics of Women’s Rights and Hypocrisy

“Today, we removed that stain,” US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, declared in reference to Iran’s expulsion from the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in December. The deciding vote on the matter in the UN Economic and Social Council followed an American diplomatic campaign to see Iran stripped of its capacity to derive legitimacy from its participation in the world’s foremost body on women’s rights while leading a violent crackdown on a women-led protest movement within its own borders. 

This official justification offered by US officials—centered on the ways in which Iran’s presence undermined the credibility of the entire commission—was supported by an influential group of high-profile Iranian activists and women’s rights organizations. Yet, the US decision to pursue Iran’s removal was clearly not insulated from the broader political battle between the two states, including the American desire to push Iran further to the margins of the international community.  

To this point, the American National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, described the decision as “another sign of the growing international consensus on Iran.” However, the eventual vote to expel Iran was not unanimous: 29 states were in favor, 16 abstained, and eight (including Russia, China, and Oman) voted against the US-sponsored resolution. Even beyond the halls of the UN, traditional foes of Iran have not capitalized on this diplomatic defeat to criticize the Islamic Republic, and American partners in the MENA region (with the obvious exception of Israel) have been largely silent on the Iran vote.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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