Feminists worldwide are outraged over an attempt by Iran to gain a seat on the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Iran reportedly withdrew a bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights council and announced candidacy for membership in the commission last week, according to Radio Free Europe. The CSW meets annually and aims to “evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.”
Iranian women’s rights activists and other feminists worldwide wrote an open letter to the UN opposing Iranian’s candidacy for CSW membership. The letter references that Iranian women have been “arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of [the discriminatory] laws” in place in Iran and also states that “the Iranian government will certainly use [CSW membership] to curtail the progress and advancement of women,” reported Radio Free Europe.
In February, Gender Equality in Iran issued a petition that demands “an end to state-led violence and repression” in Iran. In part, it said, “Over the past eight months, the grass-roots protest movement that emerged following the disputed presidential elections has been suppressed by mounting violence. Physical and psychological violence – through arrest, torture, rape, extended imprisonment, and even execution – has been exercised against civil and political activists in Iran. As of now, numerous women activists from various movements – women’s, workers, students, civil, and political – are detained and/or have received heavy sentences. The list of detainees grows everyday.”
In addition to the continued harassment of activists, during the fall of 2009 a documentary attacking Iran’s women’s rights movement was broadcast on state television. At about the same time, the head of Iran’s state television, Ezatollah Zarghami, declared that state-sponsored television programs will henceforth prohibit women who appear on air from using make-up. Zarghami told the newspaper Eternad that “make-up by women during television programs is illegal and against Islamic Sharia law. There should not be a single case of a woman wearing make-up during a program.”
More recently, a senior Iranian cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, created a firestorm when he blamed earthquakes on women’s attire. He said, “Women who do not dress modestly…lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes,” reported the Washington Post.