'We have made no secret of our concern that Iran joining the board of would have been an inauspicious start,' US Ambassador Rice says. Specialist for Human Rights Watch group 'extremely relieved'.
Iran failed to secure a seat on a key board running the new UN super agency to improve women's rights as fierce lobbying by western nations and rights groups swayed an election Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia, whose candidacy was also criticized, got an automatic seat and rights groups said they will now seek to put the spotlight on the kingdom's record.
Iran was beaten to an Asian seat on the executive board by East Timor, a late entrant to the contest, in a vote at the UN General Assembly. Four UN agencies were merged this year to set up UN Women under the leadership of former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.
Iran had originally been guaranteed a place as the Asia region had put forward 10 candidates for 10 seats. Iran and Pakistan were on the agreed list.
East Timor risked the wrath of its Asian neighbors by putting itself forward as a spoiler late last week, as controversy mounted over Iran's rights record, diplomats said. It won 36 votes against 19 for Iran.
The United States, European Union, Australia and Canada carried out an intensive diplomatic campaign to thwart Iran, diplomats said.
"It was an expression of disapproval of Iran's rights record," Norway's UN ambassador Morten Wetland told AFP, explaining his country's decision to back East Timor.
"They lost and they lost handily," commented US ambassador Susan Rice on Iran's defeat.
"We have made no secret of our concern that Iran joining the board of UN Women would have been an inauspicious start to that board," she told reporters.
'Shocking system of male guardianship'
Campaigners had highlighted Iran's treatment of women, including the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani who was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery. Though Iran has said this will not be carried out, reports say she could now be hanged after being found guilty of the murder of her husband.
"We are extremely relieved," said Philippe Bolopion, UN specialist for the Human Rights Watch group. "Iran has a catastrophic record on rights," he said.
"It is a country which has distinguished itself by actively repressing women's rights activists, they have harassed many and imprisoned some," he told AFP.
A resolution on Iran's human rights is to be voted at the UN General Assembly next week and is already the subject of intense new lobbying, diplomats said.
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi had said before the vote that having either Iran or Saudi Arabia on the board of UN Women would "a joke".
Ebadi said that Saudi Arabia's record on women is worse than Iran.
In Saudi Arabia women are forbidden to drive and cannot take major decisions without the permission of a male relative.
It secured an automatic seat from a group of donor countries for which there was no vote.
The US ambassador said that UN Women is "a vitally important institution", and questioned about the Saudi presence she added: "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."
The HRW specialist said that Saudi Arabia had "bought" a seat on the UN Women board.
"They have one of the worst records in the world when it comes to women's rights. But by being on the board they have essentially put the spotlight on their own record," said Bolopion.
"We want to use this spotlight to push them to start making some significant progress. By working to put an end to the shocking system of male guardianship, by which women in Saudi Arabia cannot make any important decisions in their lives," he said.
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -