GENEVA: New UN human rights chief Volker Turk revealed Thursday he had offered to visit Iran during Tehran’s deadly crackdown on mass protests gripping the country – but has received no reply.
Iran has witnessed two months of demonstrations sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women. The protests have swelled into a broad movement against the ruling theocracy.
Turk started his new job as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights last month.
“Since I took up my current position as high commissioner, I had two meetings with the Iranian authorities,” he told reporters outside a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council called to discuss whether to set up a high-level investigation into Tehran’s crackdown.
“I offered to go to Iran, I also offered a stronger presence in Iran – we don’t have an office there – but so far I haven’t received a response.”
Turk said he had also engaged with Tehran on its use of the death penalty, especially regarding juvenile offenders.
“Again, we haven’t received responses to our calls to put an end to it,” he said.
As for the prospect of Iranian engagement with the UN’s various human rights mechanisms, he added: “Hope springs eternal.
“So far, it’s been not the most forward-looking approach,” he said, citing Tehran’s refusal to allow entry to the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.
“We can only hope that this attitude will change.”
Turk made his first speech to the Human Rights Council to open the special session on the Iran protests, calling for an immediate end to the violence against protesters, saying change was inevitable.
“It’s a message of solidarity with the people of Iran and we hope it will lead to the authorities changing course on what would otherwise become a real human rights emergency,” he said.