Israeli ambassador spirited away by UN security after mounting protest during speech by Iranian president

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Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan was seen being swiftly escorted by a UN security officer on Tuesday after the official held up a protest sign during a speech from Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi.

Despite reports Mr Erdan had been detained, the United Nations told The Independent the Israeli official had merely spoken with security.

“There was indeed an incident when the permanent representative of Israel walked down the aisle and unfurled a photo during the speech by the president of Iran in the general assembly,” a spokesperson for the body said. “UN security spoke to him. At no time was the ambassador detained in any way, shape or form. As far as we are concerned, the incident is closed.”

The Independent has contacted the Israeli embassy and Iran’s special interests section in Washington for comment.

During the address from President Raisi, Ambassador Erdan held up a placard with the image of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman who died last year after being arrested by the country’s morality police, with a caption reading, “Iranian women deserve freedom now!”

Later, on social media, he continued to rail against the Iranian leader.

“When President Raisi of Iran, the ‘Butcher of Tehran,’ began his speech, I waved a picture of Mahsa Amini, the innocent Iranian woman who was brutally murdered by the regime one year ago for not wearing a hijab ‘properly.’” he wrote on X. “Meanwhile, outside the UN hundreds of Iranians were protesting, begging for help from the international community. I will never stop fighting for the truth and I will always expose the UN’s moral distortions. Those who roll out the red carpet for murderers and antisemites must be held accountable for their actions!”

The dramatic gesture came just after the one-year anniversary of Amini’s death.

The 22-year-old died in police custody on 16 September, three days after being jailed for allegedly failing to wear her mandatory headscarf properly.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan holds up a protest sign during a 19 September, 2023, speech at the General Assembly by Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi (Gilad Erdan)
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan holds up a protest sign during a 19 September, 2023, speech at the General Assembly by Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi (Gilad Erdan)

Iranian officials claimed she suffered a heart attack in her cell, while family members said she didn’t have a history of heart issues and witnesses to her detention saw her being viciously beaten.

The death caused widespread popular protests in Iran, a rarity, centred around women’s rights in the country, and simmering discontent continues to this day, including among Iranian school girls, who have continued to flout hijab rules.