Iran lost its bid Wednesday for a seat on the board of the new U.N. agency to promote equality for women to East Timor after strong opposition from the United States and human rights groups to Tehran’s treatment of women.
Iran, which recently sentenced 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to death by stoning for adultery, had been among the 10 nations on an uncontested slate put forward by Asian nations for elections to the board of UN Women until East Timor announced its candidacy in recent days.
In Wednesday’s election by the 54-nation U.N. Economic and Social Council, Iran got the lowest number of votes of the 11 Asian nations vying for 10 seats on UN Women’s board.
Iran received just 19 votes compared to 36 for East Timor, which broke from 24 years of Indonesian occupation in 1999 and declared independence in 2002.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice welcomed the result, saying “we’ve made no secret that Iran joining the board of UN Women would have been an inauspicious start to that board . . . and we think it was a very good outcome today.”
Some rights groups were also upset that Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive and are barred from many facilities used by men; Libya, where Moammar Gadhafi has been in power for more than 40 years; and Congo, where rape is widely used as a weapon of war, were on uncontested slates and won seats on the board.
The General Assembly resolution adopted in July that merged four U.N. bodies dealing with women’s issues into a single agency with greater clout to represent half the world’s population calls for a 41-member executive board, with 35 members chosen by regional groups and six representing donor nations.
The resolution earmarks four seats from the 10 top donor nations and the United States, Britain, Spain and Norway won those seats.
It allocated two seats to contributors from developing countries and diplomats and those winners were Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
“I am not going to deny that there were several countries that are going to join the board of UN Women that have less than stellar records on women’s rights, and indeed human rights,” Rice said, but the key issue for the U.S. was Iran’s defeat.
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi told reporters Tuesday that “membership of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia on this board is like a joke,”
The stoning sentence for Ashtiani has raised an international outcry, embarrassing Iran.
A resolution adopted by the General Assembly last year expressed “deep concern” at Iran’s increasing use of executions and death by stoning.
and torture, flogging and amputations, and its increasing discrimination against religious, ethnic and other minorities.