An Open Letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Denounce Election of Iran to U.N. Women’s Rights Commission

on May 5, 2010

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We write as women leaders from across America and from organizations concerned with women’s human rights representing oppressed women and minorities.
We call on you, Secretary Clinton, to denounce Iran’s election to a four-year seat on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women as an appointment that shocks the conscience of civilized societies.

We also wish to express our utter astonishment that Iran was “elected by acclamation,” which means that none of the United Nations’ member states – including the United States of America – requested or required an open vote on Iran’s election to the Commission. Why did the United States fail to request an open vote?

In 1995, to an audience of the Fourth World Conference on Women, you declared: “It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights.” You added: “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney of New York said she “believed that you spoke from personal conviction.”

Therefore, we are puzzled and deeply troubled that, as Secretary, you have remained silent regarding human rights abuses under the brutal Islamic Republic of Iran regime.

The government of Iran is the perpetrator of well-known, well-documented and shocking human rights abuses against women. There are sickening and horrific videos, websites, documented reports of gang rapes, stonings, mutilations, hangings, beatings, burnings and other barbaric acts of violence, intimidation, and humiliation against the women of Iran. Political dissidents, gays, non-Muslim minorities, apostates, and infidels are also targeted in widespread human rights violations and gruesome attacks — all these atrocities are egregious violations of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Two hundred and fourteen Iranian activists recently wrote to U.N. member states to oppose Iran’s election to the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women. Their letter states: “Iran’s discriminatory laws demonstrate that the Islamic Republic does not believe in gender equality…Women lack the ability to choose their husbands, have no independent right to education after marriage, no right to divorce, no right to child custody, have no protection from violent treatment in public spaces, are restricted by quotas for women’s admission at universities, and are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of such laws.”

Click here for more on Iran’s human rights record.

The U.S. Department of State’s 2009 report on Iran’s human rights clearly states the egregious violations of Iran in this area:

The government’s poor human rights record degenerated during the year [2009], particularly after the disputed June presidential elections. The government severely limited citizens’ right to peacefully change their government through free and fair elections. The government executed numerous persons for criminal convictions as juveniles and after unfair trials. Security forces were implicated in custodial deaths and the killings of election protesters and committed other acts of politically motivated violence, including torture, beatings, and rape. The government administered severe officially sanctioned punishments, including death by stoning, amputation, and flogging. Vigilante groups with ties to the government committed acts of violence. Prison conditions remained poor. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, often holding them incommunicado. Authorities held political prisoners and intensified a crackdown against women’s rights reformers, ethnic minority rights activists, student activists, and religious minorities. There was a lack of judicial independence and of fair public trials. The government severely restricted the right to privacy and civil liberties, including freedoms of speech and the press, assembly, association, and movement; it placed severe restrictions on freedom of religion. Official corruption and a lack of government transparency persisted. Violence and legal and societal discrimination against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons; trafficking in persons; and incitement to anti-Semitism remained problems. The government severely restricted workers’ rights, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, and arrested numerous union organizers. Child labor remained a serious problem. On November 20, for the seventh consecutive year, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution on Iran expressing concern about the country’s “serious, ongoing, and recurring human rights violations.” (emphasis added)


The Commission’s mandate is to review and report on women’s human rights and monitor progress toward improving women’s human rights. Clearly, the election of Iran to such a Commission is an appalling example of hypocrisy. We await your public and clear condemnation of this outrageously sexist and insensitive decision by the U.N.

Signatories (partial list):

Nazanin Afshin-Jam, International Human Rights Activist, President and Co-Founder of Stop Child Executions
Irene Alter, President, Center for Policy Research in American Education
Anne Applebaum, columnist
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Resident Scholar, AEI and Founder of the AHA Foundation
Danielle Avel, Columnist
Claudia Barlow
Dr. Toby F. Block, Senior Academic Professional (retired) Georgia Institute of Technology
Gretchen S. Bolton, Treasurer, AHA Foundation, Inc.
Banafshe Zand-Bonazzi, Planet Iran
Nancy Bonus, Ph.D. – chapter leader, San Fernando Valley Act! For America
Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director for Security Policy, JINSA
Joy Brighton, Stop Shariah Now
Bernadette Brady, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
Christine Brim, Center for Security Policy
Debra Burlingame, Co-Founder, 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America
Mona Charen, Syndicated Columnist, Creators Syndicate
Dr. Phyllis Chesler, the Phyllis Chesler Organization
Nonie Darwish, President
Korrine Diggs, Stop Modern Slavery, Founder and Director, Philadelphia Chapter
Mehran Divanbaigyzand
Elaine Donnelly, President, Center for Military Readiness
Barbara Donno, Nassau/Queens 9/12 Group
Michelle Easton, President, Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, Director, American Center for Democracy
Manda Zand Ervin, Founder and President, Alliance of Iranian Women
Clarice Feldman, columnist, Washington, DC
Ann Deborah Fishman, Esq., Founder of Liberty Legal Project International
Barbara Fix, Women United: Code Red
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Employment Policy, Hudson Institute
Danielle Frum, author and journalist
Brigitte Gabriel, ACT for
Georgette Gelbard, Cyber Counter Terrorism Center of the Middle East Forum
Pamela Geller, Co-Founder, Stop Islamization of America
Beth Gilinsky, Founder, Action Alliance and Women United: Code Red
Catherine Gossman, College of Social Work, The Ohio State University
Debra Guckenheimer, Ph.D., Northeastern Advance Postdoctoral Research Associate, Northeastern University
Meghan Gurdon, author and journalist
Carol A. Haave, former Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, DHS
Pamela Hall, New York – United American Committee
Ferne Hassan, political activist
Aggie R. Hoffman, Attorney at Law, Los Angeles, CA
Donna M. Hughes, Professor & Carlson Endowed Chair, Women’s Studies Program, University of Rhode Island
Laura Ingraham, Laura Ingraham Show
Margo Itskowitch, Women United, Los Angeles, CA
Erica Saghar Kasraie, Spokesperson, Confederation of Iranian Students
Joyce Kaufman, Radio Host, 850 WFTL
Karen Khan, attorney, Women’s Freedom Movement of Pakistan
Judith Apter Klinghoffer, History News Network
Andrea Lafferty, Traditional Values Coalition
Barbara Ledeen, Women United: Code Red
Janet Levy, Women Against Shariah
Reggie Littlejohn, Founder and President, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers
Jody Lisberger, Ph.D., M.F.A., Director of Women’s Studies, The University of Rhode Island
Mary Beth Long, former Assistant Secretary of Defense of International Security Affairs
May Long, Christians and Jews United for Israel
Sheryl Longin, Pajamas Media
Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Founder and President, Z Street
Hillary Markowitz, Mothers Against Terrorism
Faith McDonnell, Director, Religious Liberty Programs, Institute on Religion and Democracy
Ruth Messinger
Myra Miller, The Winston Group
Cleta Mitchell, Esq., Chairman, American Conservative Union Foundation
Doris Wise Montrose, President, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors
Penny Nance, CEO, Concerned Women for America
Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh and Cyrus Nowrasteh, The Stoning of Soraya M
Kate O’Beirne, President, National Review Institute
Eileen J. O’Connor, Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, 2001 – 2007
Daphne Patai, Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Kathleen Parker, Washington Post syndicated columnist
Joan Peters, Author-Historian: National Committee on American Foreign Policy
Dianne Post, International Human Rights lawyer
Dr. Allis Radosh, author and historian
Racquel Reinstein, attorney
Susan Rosenbluth, Editor and Publisher, Jewish Voice and Opinion
Mary Rose Rybak, Managing Editor, First Things
Nicole Sadighi, Fellow, Researcher at the Center for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy for Iran
Shera Samson, singer and songwriter
Ramesh Sepehrrad, Iranian women’s rights leader
Melanie Shapiro, Citizens Against Trafficking, Co-founder
Nina Shea, Director, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom; Commissioner, US Commission on International Religious Freedom
Christina Hoff Sommers, American Enterprise Institute
Dr. Clare Spark, Independent Scholar, Los Angeles
Sarah N. Stern, Founder and President, Endowment for Middle East Truth
Linda Stulberg, Women United: Code Red, Michigan
Dr. Wafa Sultan
Joan Swirsky, journalist and author
Carol A. Taber, President,
Allyson Rowen Taylor, Women United: Code Red, California
Giti Thadani
Virginia Thomas, President/CEO, Liberty Central
Jeri Thompson
Victoria Toensing, Former Chief Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
Diana West, Washington Examiner syndicated columnist and author
Shab Zand, Seattle, Washington



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