Thursday, January 27th | 26 Shevat 5782

July 10, 2019 12:34 pm

UN Watchdog Demands Protection for Ex-Miss Iraq Who Is Being Threatened With Citizenship Revocation After Defending Israel

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Former Miss Iraq Sarah Idan, right, speaking alongside former Miss Israel Adar Gendelsman at the AJC Global Forum in June 2018. Photo: Screenshot / YouTube.

A leading NGO is calling on the UN to take action on behalf of a former Miss Iraq who is being threatened with revocation of her citizenship and other punitive measures for testifying before the UN Human Rights Council.

UN Watch, a Geneva-based monitoring group, appealed to both the president of the UNHRC and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, demanding “an end to intimidation of a witness for her testimony before the UN.”

Sarah Idan, Miss Iraq 2017, first ran into controversy when she posted a picture of herself with Miss Israel on Instagram during the Miss Universe pageant. As a result, she received death threats and could not return to Iraq.

Last month, she appeared before the UNHRC and called for peace between Arabs and Israelis.

“The issue between Arabs and Israelis goes beyond policy disagreements. It’s deeply rooted in the belief systems taught in Muslim countries, which are antisemitic,” she said.

She pointedly attacked the media for its portrayal of Israel, saying, “Sadly, hatred and intolerance are reinforced by biased media. When I watched the news last month, why did they never report that the Hamas terrorist organization fired nearly 700 rockets at Israeli civilians in one weekend or that Hamas used Palestinians in Gaza as human shields?”

“Why do they never condemn Hamas for initiating the attacks?” she asked. “Instead, they only show those killed by the response, in self-defense, and blame Israel.”

Referring to the threats against her, she wondered, “Why did the Iraqi government fail to condemn the threats, or allow my freedom of speech?”

“For advocating peace, I’m called a traitor. Why hasn’t a single Arab media outlet called to ask my views? Instead, they publish false translations of my statements,” she said.

“I’d like to remind Arab countries that today you share more common interests with Israel than the terrorist militias,” she added. “Negotiating peace for both states isn’t betraying the Arab cause but a vital step to end conflict and suffering for all. Thank you.”

The next day, Idan again appeared before the UNHRC, strongly criticized Iraq’s human rights record, and asked why Iraq was allowed to be a member of the council.

“I ask the UN: Why has this council never adopted a single resolution for the human rights of the Iraqi people?” she said. “How could you elect a government that oppresses its own people as a world guardian of human rights?”

As reported in the Iraqi media outlet Baghdad Today, parliamentarian Ali al-Ghanmi, a member of the Security and Defense Committee, is calling for Idan’s citizenship to be revoked for her testimony defending Israel.

The MP said Idan “will be held accountable by law” and called for “the competent authorities to follow up.”

In a letter addressed to Coly Seck, president of the council, UN Watch demanded that the world body protect Idan according to Human Rights Council Resolution 36/21, intended to shield those who testify before UN bodies.

The group asked for the UNHRC to “fulfill its duty under Art. 4 to take all appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence of acts of intimidation or reprisal against Ms. Idan, and to effectively protect those who have cooperated with the United Nations in the field of human rights from any act of intimidation.”

Under Article 5, the group demanded that Iraq “ensure accountability for any act of intimidation or reprisal against Ms. Idan, by ensuring impartial, prompt and thorough investigations in order to bring MP al-Ghanmi and any other perpetrators to justice, and provide access to effective remedies for Ms. Idan.”

The group also cited Article 7, calling on Iraq “to provide information, as appropriate, to the Human Rights Council on all measures taken by them to prevent and address acts of intimidation or reprisal against Ms. Idan.”

The group asked for the council to issue a statement “rebuking Iraq for this prohibited intimidation and reprisal, and reminding all countries of their obligation to protect those who testify before the Council.”

Finally, UN Watch demanded the UNHRC Bureau “report these incidents to the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner, and all other relevant UN mechanisms dealing with reprisals against those who cooperate with UN human rights bodies.”

UN Watch head Hillel Neuer also took to Twitter to address the secretary-general directly, writing, “We urge you to dispatch an immediate demarche [diplomatic protest] to @IraqUN Ambassador Bahr Aluloom & demand an end to intimidation of a witness for her testimony before the UN, as expressly stated by MP al-Ghanmi, member of Iraq’s Security & Defense Committee.”

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