Chrystia Freeland, Melanie Joly among signatories to letter on Iranian women's rights

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly are among the key signatories to an open letter decrying Iran's record on women's rights.

The letter, published in Sunday's New York Times, condemns Iran's violent crackdown on recent protests and calls for the country to be removed from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Former prime minister Kim Campbell and human rights activist and author Nazanin Afshin-Jam are the other Canadians on a list of "key signatures" to the letter.

Iran began a four-year term on the UN's status-of-women commission earlier this year.

The letter says Iran should have been disqualified for its long-standing, systemic oppression of women, as well as its recent brutality towards human-rights protesters.

Six weeks of protests in Iran were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested for allegedly failing to properly cover her hair and died in police custody.

For every day that Iran remains a member of the UN commission, the letter says, the body loses credibility.

The other member states of the commission have a duty to "uphold its mandate and defend the very values they claim to support," it says.

Canada is not a current member of the commission, but the United States is.

Among the biggest names to have lent their support are former U.S. presidential contender Hillary Clinton, former presidential spouses Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, author Gloria Steinam, philanthropist Oprah Winfrey and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

Freeland and Joly aren't the only current politicians joining the call.

New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is a signatory, though her country is not a current member of the commission.

The list also features the European Central Bank's president, Christine Lagarde, ex-Australian prime minister Julia Gillard and former presidents of Liberia and Lithuania.

"Women‑led protests across Iran have been met with extreme violence. And yet, Iranian women and girls, and their allies, bravely persist. We support their struggle for fundamental freedoms and call for an immediate end to state violence and the safe release of thousands of detained citizens," the letter reads.

"This is a critical moment for leaders in the international community to vocally and unequivocally demonstrate their support for women’s rights by standing in solidarity with Iranian women and girls."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2022.

The Canadian Press