Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

The UN Human Rights Council voted Thursday to condemn a bloody crackdown on peaceful protests in Iran and establish an independent fact-finding mission to investigate alleged abuses, particularly those against women and children.

The resolution proposed by Germany and Iceland was supported by 25 countries, including the United States and many European, Latin American, Asian and African countries. Six countries opposed the move – China, Pakistan, Cuba, Eritrea, Venezuela and Armenia – while 16 abstained.

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The United Nations’ top human rights official had earlier appealed to Iran’s government to stop the crackdown on protesters, but Tehran’s envoy to a special Human Rights Council on the country’s “deteriorating” legal situation was defiant and adamant, calling the initiative “politically motivated.”

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The protests were sparked by the death, more than two months ago, of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police for violating the strictly enforced Islamic dress code.

Thursday’s meeting in Geneva is the latest international effort to pressure Iran over its action, which has already lifted international sanctions and other measures.

In this photo taken by a non-Associated Press employee and obtained by the AP from outside Iran, Iranians protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by morality police last month in Tehran, Oct. 27.

AP Photo/Middle East Images

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was present, said the situation was a “test of our courage”.

“The United Nations was established to protect the sovereignty of each state, but a regime that uses that power to violate the rights of its own people violates the values ​​of our United Nations,” she said.

“We have repeatedly called on Iran to respect these rights to stop the violent suppression of protesters, bloodshed, arbitrary killing, mass arrests, death sentences,” Baerbock said. “The only response we got was more violence, more death.”

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Khadijeh Karimi, Iran’s deputy vice president for women and family affairs, criticized Western efforts as part of a “politically motivated move by Germany to distort the human rights record in Iran.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets that some arrogant states are once again abusing the Human Rights Council to oppose a sovereign UN member state that is fully committed to its obligation to promote and protect human rights,” Karimi said.

Click to play video: 'A month after Mahsa Amini's death: A look back at anger-fueled protests across Iran, around the world'

One month after Mahsa Amini’s death: A look back at anger-fueled protests across Iran, around the world

She touted her government’s efforts to boost the role of women in the workplace and in higher education and accused Western countries of turning a blind eye to rights abuses in places like Yemen, the Palestinian territories or against indigenous peoples in Canada – which the Canadian government has acknowledged. .

Karimi acknowledged the “unfortunate death” of Amini and said that “necessary measures” had been taken in the aftermath, including the creation of a parliamentary commission of inquiry. She accused Western countries of fomenting disorder and violence by interfering in Iran’s internal affairs.

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The head of the UN for human rights, Volker Turk, expressed concern that the Iranian government did not listen to the world community.

“The people of Iran, from all walks of life, across ethnicities, across ages, demand change. These protests have their roots in the long-term denial of freedoms, legal and structural inequalities, lack of access to information and the shutdown of the Internet,” he said.

“I call on the authorities to immediately stop using violence and harassment of peaceful protesters and to release all those arrested for peaceful protest, as well as, crucially, to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty,” he added.

The German-Icelandic proposal was intended to step up monitoring carried out for years by the 47-member council’s “special rapporteur” on Iran, whose efforts have been shunned by the leaders of the Islamic Republic. Western diplomats say Tehran has led a quiet push in Geneva and beyond to try to avoid further scrutiny by a new council resolution being considered on Thursday.

In this photo taken by a non-Associated Press employee and obtained by the AP from outside Iran, Iranians protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by morality police last month in Tehran, Oct. 27.

AP Photo/Middle East Images

The council will now set up a “fact-finding mission” to investigate rights violations “especially against women and children” linked to the protests that broke out on September 16. It also demands that Tehran cooperate with the special rapporteur, such as by allowing access to areas inside Iranian territory, including places of detention.

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The team is expected to report back to the council in mid-2023.

Several Western diplomats expressed anger at China’s last-minute attempt to drop the planned investigation from the resolution. Beijing officials said the fact-finding mission “would obviously not help resolve the problem” and “could further complicate the domestic situation in Iran.”

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But that effort was ultimately defeated, with only five other nations backing China’s proposed amendment.

The US envoy to the Geneva-based council, Ambassador Michele Taylor, said it was important to pass a resolution establishing a fact-finding mission “due to Iran’s demonstrated unwillingness to investigate numerous credible allegations of human rights abuses by members of its security forces and other officials .”

Taylor said she was “personally appalled” by China’s attempt to sink the proposal.

“Some who have defended the Iranian authorities have tried to portray it as just a cultural problem,” she said. “Let’s be clear: no culture tolerates the killing of women and children.”

Amini remains a powerful symbol in the protests, which have posed one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Green Movement protests drew millions into the streets.

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Click to play video: 'Women, life, freedom': EU lawmaker cuts hair at rostrum during debate on Iran protests'

‘Women, life, freedom’: EU lawmaker cuts hair at podium during debate on protests in Iran

At least 426 people have been killed and more than 17,400 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights in Iran, a group monitoring the unrest.

Activists said Iranian security forces opened fire on protesters in a western Kurdish city on Monday, killing at least five during an anti-government protest at the funeral of two people killed a day earlier.

Iran arrests outspoken player amid World Cup surveillance

Iran also arrested a prominent former member of its national soccer team on Thursday over his criticism of the government as authorities grapple with protests across the country that have cast a shadow over the World Cup competition.

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The semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported that Voria Ghafouri was arrested for “insulting the national football team and propagandizing against the government.”

Voria Ghafouri of Esteghlal looks on during the Persian Gulf Pro League match between Esteghlal and Padideh FC at Azadi Stadium on June 21, 2021 in Tehran, Iran. The semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported that Ghafouri was arrested on Thursday for “insulting the national football team and propaganda against the government”.

Mohammad Karamali/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Ghafouri, who was not selected to go to the World Cup, has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian authorities throughout his career. He opposed a longstanding ban on women watching men’s football matches, as well as Iran’s confrontational foreign policy, which has led to crippling Western sanctions.

He recently offered his condolences to the family of a 22-year-old woman whose death while in the custody of Iran’s morality police sparked the latest protests. In recent days, he also called for an end to the violent crackdown on protests in Iran’s Western Kurdistan region.

Click to play video: 'Tens of thousands gather in Berlin in support of Iranian protesters'

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Berlin in support of the Iranian protesters

Reports of his arrest came ahead of Friday’s World Cup match between Iran and Wales. In Iran’s opening game, a 6-2 loss to England, members of the Iranian national team refused to sing their national anthem, and some fans expressed support for the protests.

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Iranian officials have not said whether Ghafouri’s activism was a factor in not selecting him for the national team. He plays for the Khuzestan Foolad team in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

Some Iranians actively root against their own team at the World Cup, associating it with rulers they see as violent and corrupt. Others insist that the national team, which includes players who have expressed solidarity with the protests on social media, represents the country’s citizens.

The team’s star forward, Sardar Azmoun, who has been vocal about the protests online, was on the bench during the opening game. In addition to Ghafouri, two other former soccer stars were arrested for expressing support for the protests.

Other Iranian athletes have also been drawn into the fray.

Iranian mountaineer Elnaz Rekabi competed without the mandatory headscarf at an international competition in South Korea in October, a move seen as a show of support for the protests. She received a hero’s welcome from protesters upon her return to Iran, although she told state media that the move was “unintentional” in an interview that may have been given under duress.

Earlier this month, Iran’s football federation threatened to fine the players of its beach soccer team after it defeated Brazil in an international competition in Dubai. One of the players celebrated after scoring a goal by imitating a protester who cut off her hair.