News Highlight

Ahmadinejad's Speech at the UN Durban Conference on Racism

April 20, 2009


On April 20, 2009, delegates from twenty-three countries walked out of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN Durban Review Conference held in Geneva in response to his remarks.[1]   In the speech, Ahmadinejad said:

 

“Following World War Two, [western powers] resorted to making an entire nation homeless on the pretext of Jewish suffering. They sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the occupied Palestine. In compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive, racist regime in Palestine.”[2]

 

The delegates left the conference room within minutes of Ahmadinejad taking the podium.  British Ambassador to the UN  Peter Gooderham, one of the delegates to walk out during the speech, said, "such inflammatory rhetoric has no place whatsoever in a United Nations conference addressing the whole issue of racism and how to address it." [3] 

 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said “I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite.  This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve. We must all turn away from such a message in both form and substance.”[4]  The United States deputy ambassador to the UN, Alejandro Wolff, called the speech "inaccurate", as well as disrespectful of the UN.  He also said that Ahmadinejad’s remarks do "a grave injustice to the Iranian nation and the Iranian people."[5]  The United States and eight other countries boycotted the UN conference altogether, citing differences on Israel and free speech.

 

 

Countries that boycotted the UN Durban Review Conference: [6] Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, and the United States

 

Countries that walked out in protest to Ahmadinejad’s speech: [7] Austria, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic (which left the conference entirely), Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and St. Kitts and Nevis



[1] Cumming-Bruce, Nick and Isabel Kershner, “Speech Prompts Walkout At Racism Conference,” New York Times, April 20, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/21/world/21geneva.html (April 20, 2009)
[2] “In Quotes: Ahmadinejad Speech,” BBC News, April 20, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8008850.stm (April 20, 2009)
[3] “Walkout At Iran Leader’s Speech,” BBC News, April 20, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8008572.stm (April 20, 2009)
[4] Cumming-Bruce, Nick and Isabel Kershner, “Speech Prompts Walkout At Racism Conference,” New York Times, April 20, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/21/world/21geneva.html (April 20, 2009)
[5] “Walkout At Iran Leader’s Speech,” BBC News, April 20, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8008572.stm (April 20, 2009)
[6] “Countries That Boycotted Or Walked Out Of The UN Racism Conference,” Associated Press, April 20, 2009, http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-un-un-racism-conference-glance,0,1765378.story?page=2 (April, 20, 2009); “Sweden To Boycott UN Racism Conference,” The Local, April 18, 2009, http://www.thelocal.se/18946/20090418/ (April 20, 2009)
[7] “Countries That Boycotted Or Walked Out Of The UN Racism Conference,” Associated Press, April 20, 2009, http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-un-un-racism-conference-glance,0,1765378.story?page=2 (April, 20, 2009)