TEHRAN (Agencies): Iran has pushed back against efforts spearheaded by Western countries to scrutinise at the United Nations its handling of weeks of protests across the country. Germany and Iceland said on Friday they submitted a request on behalf of 42 countries to hold a special session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month on the continuing demonstrations in Iran – which would signal the first time such a meeting is being convened on Iran.
The request calls for the session to “address the deteriorating human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially with respect to women and children”, and has the support of more than one-third of the council’s voting members, which is required to convene a gathering outside the body’s normal schedule. The protests began in mid-September after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by the country’s “morality police” for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly.
Dozens of people are thought to have been killed during the protests with many more arrested, but Iranian officials have not released an official tally. They have, however, said more than 40 security forces have been killed, and began holding fast-tracked courts for “leaders of riots” who could be sentenced to execution.
A group of UN experts, including the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, on Friday released a statement calling on Iranian authorities to stop indicting people with charges punishable by death for participating in the protests. Rights groups have condemned Iran for its response to the demonstrations amid severe restrictions on internet connectivity.
The United States and the European Union, in addition to Canada and the United Kingdom, have imposed human rights sanctions on Iranian officials and entities, which Tehran has responded to with sanctions of its own. Iran has called into question Western governments’ credibility in scrutinising Tehran’s behaviour.
In a phone call on Thursday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said a Human Rights Council meeting would be held by Western governments “who propagate violence and terror”. “[It’s] not about the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is a true defender of human rights and has shown deep restraint during recent riots,” said Amirabdollahian.
The diplomat “warned” Guterres that convening a council meeting would constitute a “political move” that would adversely affect Iran’s relations with the West. Iran also sent two representatives to New York City to participate in a number of UN human rights events to convey what it called a “correct narrative” of what is happening in the country – which officials refer to as “riots”.
Kazem Gharibabadi, the deputy for international affairs of the Iranian judiciary who is in New York with conservative politician Zohreh Elahian, said they aim to “prevent the incorrect and hostile narrative of Western countries and the US”. Iran has repeatedly blamed the US, Israel, the UK and Saudi Arabia for “inciting terror and riots” across the country and being the driving force behind the protests.
Tehran recently blacklisted two London-based television channels as “terrorist organisations” and said cooperating with them would be punishable by law. Authorities earlier this week arrested a woman who they alleged was an “agent”, a claim the news organisation denied.
The UK on Friday summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires to protest “immediate threats to life from Iran” against journalists working in Britain. Earlier this week, Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said warnings issued by the elite force against adversaries have been effective.
“Through several other countries, our enemies are sending messages to us, saying ‘we feel you want to hit us – don’t hit us’,” he said. It came shortly after reports emerged that Saudi Arabia alerted the US of a potential Iranian attack, and Israeli fighter jets escorted two American B-52 bombers in the region in an apparent show of force to Tehran.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday met with a delegation of activists working outside the country and later hailed the protest movement as a “revolution”. It came after a group of activists was received by the German parliament, and the Belgian parliament passed a resolution in support of the protests. The demonstrations, some of the longest seen since the country’s 1979 revolution that birthed the current theocratic establishment, continued on Friday with videos online showing demonstrations in several provinces, including southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan.