The United States said on Monday it saw no sign that Iran would improve its treatment of women after reports that Tehran was dismantling its reputed morality police amid a wave of civil unrest.
Iran is witnessing some of the most significant protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution following the death on September 16 of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was detained by morality police who enforce strict dress codes for women.
Iran’s attorney general was quoted as saying over the weekend that morality police units had been closed, but activists expressed doubt that meaningful change had taken place and the government did not confirm the move.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken questioned the remarks, hailing the “incredibly brave” protesters and saying reports of morality policing were unclear.
“I don’t know exactly where it’s going to go, but the bottom line is that it’s about the aspirations of the Iranian people,” Blinken told reporters during trade talks with the European Union in suburban Washington, Maryland.
“The question is whether the regime will take them into account and act on them or not. But efforts to suppress, to use violence, to detain people, this is not a sign of strength; that’s a sign of weakness,” Blinken said.
A State Department spokesman previously said the United States “will not comment on ambiguous or vague claims made by Iranian officials.”
“Unfortunately, there is nothing we have seen to suggest that the Iranian leadership will improve its treatment of women and girls, or stop the violence it inflicts on peaceful protesters,” the spokesman said.
Washington has repeatedly blasted Iran over its record on women’s rights and the authorities’ crackdown on protests.
In early November, Vice President Kamala Harris said the United States would work with other nations to expel Iran from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).
Iran, which is ruled by Shia Muslim clerics, has been elected to a term that ends in 2026. The United States is serving until next year.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield repeated the call on Sunday, saying on Twitter that the Iranian government should not be on an international commission “committed to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women”.
“Removing Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women is the right thing to do.”
A public petition to remove Iran from the body received 165,800 signatures on Monday.
The 54-member UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is expected to vote next week to expel the Islamic Republic from the commission.
Iran has accused Washington of pressuring countries ahead of the vote.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Monday that the United States was trying to push Iran out “with the help of some European countries,” calling such a move illegal and politically motivated.
“This is against the free voting rights of countries in international organizations,” he said.