Iranian women in Canada hold banners and portraits of Mahsa Amini, during a protest against her death in Toronto, Canada on September 22, 2022. REUTERS./

By Steve Scherer

 – Many of the world’s female foreign ministers will discuss the ‘brutal’ crackdown against protesters in Iran during a virtual meeting this week hosted by Canada, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly said in a statement on Wednesday.

Joly and 14 others will meet virtually on Thursday at 8 a.m. ET (12 p.m. GMT) to address unrest ignited by the death last month of Iranian Mahsa Amini while being held by Tehran’s morality police. The incident has been a flashpoint for one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.

“My counterparts and I will gather to send a clear message: the Iranian regime must end all forms of violence and persecution against the Iranian people, including their brutal aggressions against women in particular,” Joly said.

“Canada will continue to stand by the courageous Iranians who are fighting for their human rights and standing up for their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. Women’s rights are human rights,” she said.

Foreign ministers from Germany, Chile, New Zealand and Norway are among the 14 who will join Canada, a government source said. France will join the call, but Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna will not be able to, said the source.

During the meeting, officials will hear from women of Iranian heritage and discuss the state of women’s and human rights in Iran, Joly’s office said, adding that it would give them an opportunity to coordinate efforts and discuss “ways to increase their collective support for the Iranian people.”

Canada had joined other nations, including the United States, in imposing sanctions on Iran.

While the current unrest does not appear close to toppling the Iranian government, the situation has raised international concerns as talks on Iran‘s nuclear capabilities appear at a stalemate and Tehran has moved to support Russia’s invasion in Ukraine in defiance of the West.

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Iran has accused countries who have expressed support for the protests of meddling in its internal affairs.

The focus on Iranian women continued on Wednesday, as climber Elnaz Rekabi, who caused controversy by competing in an international event without a head covering, returned to Iran.

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Amini, who hailed from Iran‘s Kurdistan region, died Sept. 16 after being detained three days earlier by morality police in Tehran for her “inappropriate attire”.

Iran‘s religious leaders have tried to portray the unrest as part of a breakaway uprising by the Kurdish minority threatening the nation’s unity, rather than a protest against clerical rule.

Other countries expected to participate in the meeting are Albania, Andorra, the Central African Republic, Chile, Iceland, Kosovo, Libya, Liechtenstein, Mongolia and Panama.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Alex Richardson and Bill Berkrot)

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