Islamist regimes that flout human rights take over UN cultural body
· The UN agency is currently dominated by the most oppressive regimes on education and culture. There is China, which recently let writer, poet and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo die an agonizing death in prison, where he was serving an 11-year jail sentence for his support of human rights and democracy. Then there is Iran, where a dean of journalism, Siamak Pourzand, committed suicide to avoid more persecution by the regime.
· "UNESCO has been hijacked and abused as a tool for the persecution of Israel and the Jewish people, while concocting fake facts and fake history, meant to... rewrite global history." — Carmel Shama Hacohen, Israel's ambassador to UNESCO.
· If UNESCO is really serious about reforming itself, it should immediately issue a statement against the Islamization of Turkey's Hagia Sophia Cathedral, a UN World Heritage Site.
Hit by the departure of the United States and Israel, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently welcomed its new Director-General, former French Minister of Culture Audrey Azoulay. Those who care about cultural diversity and Western civilization hailed her election, because the representative of Qatar's Islamist regime had come close to winning UNESCO's leadership race. But the real problem is that UNESCO has been abandoned to Islamist dictatorships.
A battle to save the organization has begun.
Among the critics of UNESCO there is a tendency to dismiss this agency as "irrelevant". Yet, so long as UNESCO exists, the West cannot allow repressive regimes to dominate the world's highest body supposedly in charge of culture, science and education. Richard Hoggart, the British scholar who served as UNESCO's assistant director general from 1970 to 1977, once asked: "Should UNESCO Survive?".
The UN agency is currently dominated by the most oppressive regimes in regard to education and culture. There is China, which in July let writer, poet and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo die an agonizing death in prison, where he was serving an 11-year jail sentence for his support of human rights and democracy. Then there is Iran, where a dean of journalism, Siamak Pourzand, committed suicide to avoid more persecution by the regime.
Last week, the assistant director for Education of UNESCO, Qian Tang, was in Iran to advance "cultural cooperation" with the Islamic Republic, but the issue of cultural freedom in Iran was not even raised by the envoy of the UN agency.
There is also Pakistan, a country that has sentenced to death essentially for being a Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, whose condition has never even been questioned by UNESCO. There is Qatar, where a poet, Rashid at Ajami, was sentenced to three years in prison for a poem critical of the emir Hamad bin Khalifa at Thani.
UNESCO has become a grotesque forum, hosting shows such as that orchestrated by Cuba. Last June, Cuba complained of a minute of silence for Holocaust victims, but was able to hold another one for the Palestinians. At the opening of UNESCO's 39th General Conference in Paris, the United Arab Emirates' delegation placed a box containing a medal on the desk of each foreign delegation in honor of the UAE having sponsored the renovation of the conference hall. No box, however, was placed on the desk of Israel's ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen.
These farces are nothing new at UNESCO. And they must end. The UN agency cannot allow the "uncivilized regimes", as Shama-Hacohen called them, to continue to bully and vandalize Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.
Islamic regimes launched a takeover bid for UNESCO by investing massive financial resources and political lobbying at the UN cultural agency. Qatar, the wealthiest state in the world per capita, provided extremely generous financial support. That is why a Qatari representative, the former Minister of Culture Hamad bin Abdulaziz al Kawari, for days led the recent race for the leadership of UNESCO.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center charged Qatar with bribing countries to win votes for the UN agency post. The Wiesenthal Center then launched an appeal to prevent Iran from becoming the head of UNESCO's executive board. Meanwhile, Turkey, another country with an Islamist regime that bullies culture and freedom, joined the executive board.
This "lobbying" has enabled those Islamic countries to form the most powerful block at the United Nations.