Iran’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations has claimed that the advancement and self-actualization of women has always been a “priority” of the Islamic Republic. Speaking at a day-long Security Council debate on women’s economic empowerment on Tuesday, Zahra Ershadi said the regime’s support of women had not wavered “despite the illegal US sanctions”.
Women, Ershadi told the room, played a “critical” role in dealing with “miscellaneous challenges” such as armed conflict, climate change and Covid-19, “particularly related to promoting dialogue and confidence in the peace and security process”.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, since its establishment, has always considered the promotion of cultural, social, economic, and political status of women and girls as a key element in its policy-making, legislation, and national planning,” she went on.
“Despite the US illegal and inhumane sanctions, which have negatively affected the financing and execution of programs planned by the state, civil society and private sectors aimed at women advancement and empowerment, Iran has remarkable achievements in this area.”
The rest of Ershadi's address, one of more than 30 heard by different countries' representatives during the debate, highlighted - without giving details - the impact to women and girls of "the Israeli regime's colonial and Apartheid policies in the occupied Palestinian territory" and the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Ershadi said the Taliban should "heed the international community's call to protect human rights, especially women's rights."
Notably, Ershadi finished by questioning the validity of the debate. "We restate our principled position that issues concerning women and girls are the responsibility of the General Assembly," she said. "The Security Council should only address this if it is directly related to the maintenance of international peace and security."
Ershadi did not cite any examples of "remarkable achievements" in the field of women's empowerment under the Islamic Republic. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report for 2020, which examines gender-based disparities on a range of criteria in 152 countries, ranked Iran 147th for women’s economic participation and opportunity: just 17.9 percent participated in the labor force two years ago, compared to 75 percent of men, with an average income one-sixth that of men, a figure likely to have worsened since the pandemic. The WEF also ranked Iran 118th for women’s educational attainment as 80 percent of women and girls were literate compared to 90 percent of males, and 145th for political empowerment, with just one female MP for every 19 men.
Amnesty International’s 2020/21 report for Iran has also flagged up “entrenched discrimination” against women in Iranian public life. This includes reduced divorce and inheritance rights, impeded freedom of movement, laws that enable child marriage, marital rape and honor killings, forced hijab, and restrictions on women’s day-to-day activities from riding bicycles to television appearances. Just this week, the authorities closed down an NGO helping some of the most vulnerable women on the streets of Tehran train vocational skills – in a decision that was not, according to Sun House’s founders, linked to resourcing.