Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Can a Woman Become President of Iran?

A group of United Nations experts today warned that measures preventing women and other citizens from running for presidential office in Iran constitute a serious violation of rights guaranteed by international law. 

Last week, Iran’s Guardian Council, a 12-member body of theologians and jurists which vets presidential candidates, approved only eight individuals out of the 686 people registered for the 14 June election. The 30 female candidates that applied were disqualified, as well as other key political figures, raising concerns about the fairness and transparency of the vetting procedures. 

“This mass disqualification including that of women wishing to stand in the presidential elections is discriminatory and violates fundamental right to political participation, and runs contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.  “Any restrictions on this right must be based on objective and reasonable criteria without distinction of any kind, including race, gender, religion, and political or other opinion,” the expert said in a news release from the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR).

Several candidates were reportedly excluded on the basis of their affiliation with the 2009 post-election protests and their exercise of fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

The head of the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women, Kamala Chandrakirana, stressed that excluding women from eligibility to presidential office “will exacerbate their already existing severe underrepresentation in public, political and professional life.”

Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo noted that the State must ensure women’s participation in public affairs, including the political sphere, through special measures that help eradicate discrimination and violence against women.

The experts also urged the Government to lift restrictions to freedom of expression and association. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression Frank La Rue, called for the release of detained journalists, stressing that stifling news coverage will affect the election’s credibility.

“Threats to journalists and the constriction of freedom of expression in different media during electoral times seriously undermine the inclusiveness and fairness of the electoral process,” Mr. La Rue said, recalling that at least 40 journalists remain in prison across the country. “The Government should ensure the release of all journalists currently detained in prison and should allow media activists to report freely.”  He also expressed concern over reports that the Internet has been virtually shut down, mobile texting has sporadically been blocked, and reformist or opposition websites are being censored. 

The Special Rapporteur on freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai, called again on the Iranian authorities to immediately release the main two opposition leaders, Mehdi Karoubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, who have been under house arrest since February 2011, along with hundreds of other prisoners of conscience who remain in prison for peacefully exercising their rights to freedoms of opinion, expression, association and peaceful assembly.

“Freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are essential rights for the effective exercise of political participation and must be fully protected,” the experts concluded.

(adapted from a UN press release)

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