What impact do sanctions like the international arms embargo, which is running out in October and which the UN Security Council will vote on next week, have on Iranian women?
Kelley Currie: We believe that the Iranian arms trade that we are trying to restrict under UNSCR [UN Security Council Resolution] 2231 helps the regime to keep the resources [in] its hands and allows it both to persecute its own people and sow chaos around the region. We believe it’s very important not only to hold the line on those sanctions but also to improve their enforcement.
We would like to make sure that we have a very strong set of arms restrictions in order to make it more difficult for this regime to use the resources that it has to export chaos and instability, and to repress its own people.
Some critics say the US’ campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran is hurting Iranian people economically. Is it something you consider to be an issue for the women in Iran?
There are always humanitarian exceptions, not only to Security Council resolutions but also to our own sanctions. Our goal is, again, to not [support] the Iranian regime, which is the biggest enemy of the Iranian people, and which makes choices that hurt the Iranian people every single day.
They choose what to do with their own resources and how to deploy those resources. And they have chosen to deploy them in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and other places to terrorize and cause upheaval in societies rather than to build their own society and allow women in their own society to live in peace and prosperity.
I don’t think anybody should be surprised that when you have a regime that is spreading chaos, terror, instability and repression of women around its own region, there is going to be a response from the international community. That’s what the whole Security Council exists for.
How do you see the general situation of women in Iran? How has it developed and what is your office doing to improve it?
Last year, we recognized the women of Iran with [the US State Department’s] International Women of Courage Award for their efforts to stand up to the theocratic regime as a way to call attention to their work. We are also working with women’s organizations and women activists around the region to strengthen their ability to respond to the threat that the Iranian regime represents in their countries.
Recently, we’ve seen that honor killings in Iran are on the rise again. Three women were beheaded, poisoned and murdered by their relatives — with basically the blessing from the state — for doing something that wouldn’t even provoke a response here in the United States or in Germany. So we’re very concerned about these issues.
We feel that the Iranian regime is the greatest enemy of the Iranian people, and in particular Iranian women. So helping to undermine the ability of that regime to carry out its malign activities is the best thing that we can do overall, for not just the women but all the people in Iran and the region.
What has to change, in your opinion, to make life better for women in Iran?
We believe that the Iranian women need to be able to fully and openly participate in the life of their community and not be subject to the whims of a revolutionary theocratic regime that makes their lives impossible to be full and free.
We’ve seen women stand up to this regime and pay the price for it, going back to the murder of Neda [a young woman who was shot in Tehran during the 2009 post-election protests] to the more recent detentions of women who removed their [head] scarves in public. We know that as long as this regime is in existence and running the country, women’s rights are going to be subject to severe restrictions.
How have you seen the coronavirus pandemic affect women in Iran?
We’ve heard some very disturbing stories of some of the women who are detained in various notorious prisons around Iran, including American, British and dual citizens. They are detained in prisons with proven coronavirus infections. We are very concerned about that. We continue to call for the release of those who are being unlawfully detained and urge the regime to stop arresting and persecuting people on arbitrary grounds.
Kelley Currie is the US ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. Appointed by President Donald Trump, she has held the post since January 2020. Prior to her ambassadorship, Currie had held senior policy positions with the US State Department, Congress and several non-governmental organizations. The Office for Global Women’s Issues aims to promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls through US foreign policy.
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