Don’t abandon human rights in push for nuclear deal, Iranian activists say

West is 'sidelining women’s rights and press freedom' in its rush to revive 2015 deal'

epa09143234 Iranian women wearing face masks walk on a street in Tehran, Iran, 18 April 2021. According to Iranian health ministry 405 people have died and more than 21.000 new infections were diagnosed from COVID-19 in past 24 hours as Iran is facing fourth wave of coronavirus pandemic.  EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH
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Western governments are overlooking Iran's human rights record in their rush to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, activists told The National.

Activists including pro-democracy campaigner Mariam Memarsadeghi and human rights lawyer Kaveh Shahrooz on Monday urged the US not to abandon Iran’s long-suffering women and minority groups.

They spoke of Iran’s recent election to the UN’s top women’s empowerment body and the US State Department’s decision to overlook the treatment of Iranian journalists on World Press Freedom Day on Monday.

“Western democracies are actively appeasing the regime in all kinds of ways,” Ms Memarsadeghi said.

“Today is World Press Freedom Day, and US Secretary of State [Antony] Blinken has singled out a number of countries that violate the rights of journalists and imprison them.

"He has not mentioned Iran, even though freedom of expression is violently repressed in Iran.”

Mr Blinken criticised China, Turkey, Egypt, Russia, Mexico and Afghanistan over killings, detention and harassment of journalists, but neglected Iran, which treats reporters worse, the Committee to Protect Journalists says.

This was no accident, Ms Memarsadeghi said.

Iran was elected last month to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women for a four-year term starting next year after securing votes from 43 of the 54 member states on the UN’s Economic and Social Council.

“It is akin to electing apartheid South Africa to a commission on the elimination of racism,” Ms Memarsadeghi said.

The ballot was secret but Tehran’s tally showed it gathered support from a handful of the council’s European, North American or Australasian members, said Hillel Neuer, director of campaign group UN Watch.

Mr Neuer said Tehran’s backers were willing to ignore child marriage, "honour killings" and other women’s rights issues in Iran to try to revive the flagging nuclear deal.

Iran ranked 118th out of 167 countries in Georgetown University’s gender-equality ranking.

Diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China are in Vienna this week to try to bring Iran and the US back fully into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

US President Joe Biden is looking to rejoin the pact from which his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.

Mr Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran, which responded by breaching many of the deal’s limits on enriched stockpiles.

“Having Iran being part of the UN Commission on Status of Women is part of the price that we're paying,” Mr Shahrooz said.

“The western world is willing to pay any price to preserve good relationships with dictatorships."

Iran's mission to the UN did not immediately answer The National's  request for comment.

Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, in March rejected a UN criticism of women's rights in Iran, saying Iranian women lived longer, healthier lives and had ever-improving job prospects.