Vice President Kamala Harris announced on Wednesday that the United States would attempt to remove Iran from its seat on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)—a commitment made as Tehran has continued to violently suppress women-led anti-government protests following the death of twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini.
“The United States believes that no nation that systematically abuses the rights of women and girls should play a role in any international or United Nations body charged with protecting these very same rights,” Harris said in a statement. “Iran has demonstrated through its denial of women’s rights and brutal crackdown on its own people that it is unfit to serve on this Commission … [Its] very presence discredits the integrity of its membership and the work to advance its mandate.”
Consequently, the vice president claimed that the U.S. government and Washington’s mission to the United Nations would “work with our partners to remove Iran from the [commission].”
Harris’s statement was followed by a similar commitment from U.S. UN ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who said at an informal UN Security Council session that she would “join forces with other member states … who want to protect the power and integrity of the Commission.”
Prior to Harris’ statement, a group of female political leaders from across the globe, including former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, former first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, and Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, issued an open letter condemning Iran for its response to the protests and urging the UN to remove it from its seat on the commission. “Because of the Islamic Republic’s appalling record on women’s rights, and in light of the regime’s ongoing … crackdown on protesters, we insist that Iran’s membership to the CSW be revoked,” the letter read. “For every day that Iran remains a member … the body loses credibility.”
As part of the U.S. response to the protests, the Treasury Department has implemented further economic sanctions against Iranian officials thought to be involved in the crackdown. In late September, roughly two weeks after the onset of the protests, it issued sweeping sanctions against the Guidance Patrol, the official name of Iran’s morality police, “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protestors.”
Members of the commission are elected by the UN’s Economic and Social Council, a fifty-four-nation body tasked with promoting international cooperation on economic, social, and cultural issues. Iran was elected to the commission in April 2021 through a secret vote, with the approval of more than forty of the council’s members. At the time, Tehran’s election was highly controversial, although it had previously served other terms on the commission.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.