Iran has been ousted from a UN body tasked with empowering women after world powers voted in favour of a motion submitted by the US, which said the Islamic Republic’s membership was an “ugly stain” on the group’s credibility.
Activists and rights groups have said Tehran’s role in the 45-member commission on the status of women was a farce, considering the regime’s forces have beaten and killed women peacefully calling for gender equality.
The US representative to the UN said female Iranian activists – some of whom were in the room in New York during the vote on Wednesday – had appealed to Washington to present a resolution that would expel Iran from the body.
“The commission is the premier UN body for promoting gender equality and empowering women,” ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. “It cannot do its important work if it’s being undermined from within. Iran’s membership at this moment is an ugly stain on the commission’s credibility.”
Twenty-nine of 54 members from the UN economic and social council (Ecosoc), which oversees the commission, voted in favour of the bill. Tehran only joined the body this year, months before a popular uprising erupted in September, which security forces have attempted to suppress with lethal force.
Iran had made efforts to rally support internationally before the vote. Its allies, including Russia and China, voted against the resolution, while 16 countries abstained, signalling global disunity on the issue.
Before the vote, Amir Saied Iravani, Iran’s UN representative, dismissed the resolution as part of Washington’s “hostile policy towards Iranian people”.
Last month, a separate UN body, the human rights council, voted overwhelmingly to set up a fact-finding investigation into human rights abuses in Iran, a move that could make prosecutions in international courts more probable.
The UN says more than 300 people have been killed in the recent crackdown, including at least 40 children. Medics have told the Guardian that women are being singled out at protests, with security forces firing shotguns at their faces, breasts and genitals.
The Tehran regime has imprisoned hundreds and begun what is expected to be a campaign of public executions. Authorities on Monday hanged a man from a crane for allegedly killing two members of a pro-regime militia, the second execution in less than a week of people involved in protests against Iran’s ruling theocracy.
On Wednesday, in a rare exception, a young Iranian who had been sentenced to death for allegedly pulling out a knife during a protest was given a stay of execution, his lawyer said. However, Amnesty International believes 20 more people are still at risk of execution for alleged offences in connection with the protests.
Nationwide unrest began almost three months ago after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who was arrested by the morality police that enforce Iran’s mandatory dress code laws. Amini was allegedly beaten into a coma and died in hospital.
The demonstrations have turned into a popular revolt that poses one of the biggest challenges to the Shia clerical elite since they took power in a 1979 revolution.
Iran blames foreign enemies and the media for the unrest, and says dozens of security forces have been killed by “terrorists”.
In a climate of diplomatic tension, Tehran has been accused of using foreign detainees as hostages to gain leverage. On Wednesday, Belgium’s justice minister said a Belgian national, aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, had been sentenced to 28 years in prison in Iran for a “fabricated series of crimes”. Vandecasteele had been sentenced as retribution for a jail sentence Belgium imposed on an Iranian diplomat last year, Vincent Van Quickenborne told parliament.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report