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Geneva, August 4 – UN experts faulted Iran today for discriminating against women and ethnic minority groups, during a periodic review of the country’s record in Geneva.

Members of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) challenged Iran for non-compliance in respecting women’s rights, the rights of Bahai’s, religious freedom, and noted its harassment of Baluchis, Arabs, Kurds, and Azeris.

The experts cited the absence of women in Iran’s delegation to the review panel, and demanded more information on the recent case of a woman sentenced to death by stoning on adultery charges.

Iran denied the charges and claimed to be “a leading country in the battle against apartheid and other forms of racism and intolerance.” It slammed “cultural hegemony” and denied discrimination against ethnic groups.

To prove its bona fides, Iran invoked its “active participation” in the UN’s controversial 2001 Durban conference on racism, and its hosting of an Asian preparatory meeting in Tehran. Iran also highlighted its role as vice-chair of the UN sequel, Durban II, held in April 2009, boasting that it brought 70 “human rights activists” from Iran to the Geneva conference.

President Ahmadinejad’s opening speech at Durban II sparked a European walk-out when he pointed a finger at “Zionists” and questioned “the pretext” of Jewish suffering during World War II.

According to Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, which monitored today’s meeting, “Iran’s performance was a complete whitewash of its ugly record of systematic discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities. Ahmadinejad’s Iran is a misogynistic and racist regime that is built on the oppression of its own citizens. We call on the UN panel to fully hold Iran to account for its abuses.”

Iran is to provide further information tomorrow to the panel, which issues its conclusions at the end of the session.

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).