Iranian guards sexually assaulted female IAEA inspectors - report
Iranian security guards made female International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors remove clothing and then inappropriately touched them at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, according to The Wall Street Journal.
At least four separate incidents of harassment were reported since early June, one diplomat told The Wall Street Journal, while another diplomat said that there had been five to seven. The most recent incident was reported in the past few weeks.
"What I understand is that there was touching in different places, sensitive places and so on," said one diplomat to the newspaper.
A paper circulated by the US among IAEA members ahead of a board meeting of the agency's member states this week demanded an end to the conduct.
"Harassment of IAEA inspectors is absolutely unacceptable, and we strongly urge you to make clear in your national statement at the Board meeting that such conduct is deplorable and must end immediately, and that the Board should take appropriate action if further incidents are reported," read the paper, according to the report.
The IAEA confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that incidents had occurred at the facility, without providing details.
The UN nuclear watchdog on Tuesday described as "unacceptable" incidents in Iran involving its inspectors, in which diplomats say security staff subjected female inspectors to inappropriate searches that the United States is calling harassment.
"The Agency immediately and firmly raised this issue with Iran to explain in very clear and unequivocal terms that such security-related incidents involving Agency staff are unacceptable and must not happen again," the IAEA said.
"Iran has provided explanations related to reinforced security procedures following events at one of their facilities. As a result of this exchange between the Agency and Iran there have been no further incidents."
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said on Twitter: "Security measures at the nuclear facilities in Iran are, reasonably, tightened. The IAEA inspectors have gradually come up with the new rules and regulations."
“The Agency immediately and firmly raised this issue with Iran to explain in very clear and unequivocal terms that such security-related incidents involving Agency staff are unacceptable and must not happen again. Iran has provided explanations related to reinforced security procedures following events at one of their facilities,” an IAEA spokesman told the newspaper. “As a result of this exchange between the Agency and Iran there have been no further incidents.”
This isn't the first time that Iran has faced allegations of harassment against IAEA inspectors. In 2019, a female inspector was detained at the airport and Tehran had her travel documents taken from her. Iran claimed at the time that she had traces of explosives on her and later released her.
Other incidents of alleged harassment took place before nuclear negotiations began in 2013 before the JCPOA nuclear deal was signed, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In April, Iran was elected to the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women for a four-year term along with China, Japan, Lebanon and Pakistan.
The Commission on the Status of Women is the "global champion for gender equality," according to the organization. It works to develop and uphold standards in which all women can exercise their human rights. The commission focuses on issues it deems fundamental to women's equality and attempts to promote the progress of women worldwide.
Women's rights are severely restricted in Iran, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported, saying that they face "serious discrimination" on a variety of issues including marriage, divorce and child custody. Women have been jailed for speaking out in favor of women's rights, HRW reported.
Domestic violence, marital rape, early and forced marriage are all offenses that Iranian authorities have failed to criminalize, according to Amnesty International. These offenses and other gender-based violence against women remain widespread in the country, according to Amnesty International.
Authorities have also failed to take steps against men who kill their wives or daughters and the legal age for marriage is 13, although men can obtain permission to marry their daughters and granddaughters earlier, said Amnesty International.
“Electing the Islamic Republic of Iran to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, at the time. “It’s absurd — and morally reprehensible.”
Eve Young and Reuters contributed to this report.