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Wed 10 Nov 2010 10:21 AM

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Iran, Saudi Arabia unfit for UN Women Board - Nobel laureate

The Middle East countries are vying to be on the board of a new agency to promote women’s rights

Iran, Saudi Arabia unfit for UN Women Board - Nobel laureate
SPEAKING OUT: Soutoudeh, a lawyer working with Nobel winner Shirin Ebadi (pictured) was due to fly to Rome to receive an award. (AFP)

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi said the possible election of Iran and Saudi Arabia to the board of a new United Nations body to promote women’s rights would be a “joke.”

Iran is one of 12 countries that are vying for 10 seats designated for Asian nations on the board of the agency, called UN Women. Saudi Arabia and five other nations, including the US, have declared their candidacy for six seats set aside for leading contributors to the agency.

“The membership of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia on this board is like a joke,” Ebadi told reporters in New York. “This is a mocking situation for the board from the commencement of its work. This board with the members we can see will not get anywhere.”

The UN General Assembly voted in July to create the agency by merging existing bodies. It will be formally established on Jan. 1 with former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet at the head of a 41-member board.

Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote human rights in her home country, said the situation in Iran is “deteriorating daily.”

Regarding the rights of women, she cited Iranian laws that make it more difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce or a passport, and that equate the court testimony of one man to that of two women.

“A country with this kind of record and laws against women, how can they speak about the rights of women in other countries in the world?” Ebadi said. “Regarding Saudi Arabia, the situation of women’s rights in that country is even worse.”

Rights groups including London-based Amnesty International and New York-based Human Rights Watch have criticized the candidacies of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and are barred from many public facilities used by men.

The decision by an Iranian court to sentence a woman, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, to death by stoning after her 2006 conviction on charges of adultery and murder also has drawn widespread criticism.

The US mission to the UN also has said it opposes Iran’s candidacy.

“The US is opposed to Iran serving on the board of UN Women because we believe it would send the wrong signal at the beginning of this exciting initiative,” Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the US mission, said. “The situation for women in Iran appears to have significantly deteriorated in recent years.”

Iran’s mission to the UN and Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington didn’t respond to requests to comment on Ebadi’s statements.


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Neil 9 years ago

I can't understand why either of these countries wants to be involved?