Iran elected to World Food Programme board despite 'using food as weapon of war'
Iran was elected to the board of the World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday despite its record of using access to food as a weapon of war, following a vote by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Council.
Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, Iran and its allied militias have supported the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, sending fighters and equipment.
Pro-Iranian militias, most notably Hezbollah, have been accused of using starvation as a war tactic during sieges of opposition-held towns and areas.
One of the most notable examples was the town of Madaya near Damascus in 2015, which was besieged by regime troops and Hezbollah militants for more than 200 days.
Dozens of civilians died from starvation and hunger-related illnesses - including many children. Hezbollah supporters also cruelly taunted residents of the besieged town by posting pictures of food on social media.
Assaad al Achi, the executive director of Baytna Syria, a non-profit that aims to empower Syrian civil society, told The New Arab that the blockage of cities is Iran's main starvation tactic in Syria.
"Besieging entire cities or neighbourhoods and preventing the distribution of food and medicine and access to humanitarian workers and humanitarian convoys, " he said.
"I believe it is a shame and affront to human rights to have countries like Iran on its board. Even a pragmatic approach, assuming that Iran will facilitate access when it's on the board, is not realistic in this instance as Iran is known to give a free hand to its militias and affiliates in Syria," he added.
Ali al- Za’atari, who was the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said in a statement at the time that over 40,000 residents were trapped in the town, which was later overrun by regime forces.
Iran’s election to the board comes as the world faces an acute food crisis stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Both Russia and Ukraine are major global suppliers of wheat, and the disruption to the global food economy has led to a dramatic price rise, which has been felt around the world and is now linked to various political crises, such as those in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The New Arab has reached out to the World Food Programme for comment.