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October 3, 2017 2:51 pm

Major Jewish Group Slams Iranian Bid to Head UNESCO Executive Board

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris. Photo: Matthias Ripp via Wikimedia Commons.

A major Jewish organization has slammed Iran’s bid to chair the Executive Board of UNESCO, the UN’s cultural organization.

Shimon Samuels — the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations — expressed opposition to Iran’s candidacy in a letter he sent this week to outgoing UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova (the election will be held next month, at UNESCO’s 39th General Conference in Paris). He pointed to Iran’s long history of human rights abuses, in particular its rejection of gender equality.

Samuels emphasized the Islamic Republic’s murder of over 30,000 political dissidents in 1988, which included using a UNESCO world heritage candidate site to kill prisoners, some of them younger than 18.

He also noted Iran’s rejection of UNESCO’s own June 2017 agenda item calling for gender equality in education. This was “violently revoked” by the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said, “The regime will not abide by the UNESCO 2030 terms to expand and equalize education for all. One of the main mistakes of the Western mentality about women is raising the very issue of gender equality.”

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Furthermore, the letter highlighted Iran’s suppression of press freedoms. “UNESCO World Press Freedom Day was marked by the arrest of print, television and online journalists,” Samuels wrote.

Samuels went on to say that all of this did not even touch upon “Jewish concerns,” which include “Holocaust denial cartoon contests, nuclear ambitions, ballistic missiles, incitement against and declarations of genocidal intent to annihilate Israel.”

His letter concluded that “Iran’s damage to the name of UNESCO is self-evident” and its candidacy for the chair position should be “eliminated.”

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