TEHERAN, 12 JUNE: Iran’s presidential election is offering a flicker of hope to activists hoping to revive women’s rights after they deteriorated during the eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.
Activists say that despite the sidelining by the authorities of reformists who advocate women’s rights, there is still hope that the situation of the country’s 35 million women, more than half the population, can be improved.
“The election is providing an opportunity,” said activist Minoo Mortazi, who urges women not to let emotions influence their voting decisions.
“Even a candidate who is promising a better situation for housewives, by providing financial security merits a vote,” she said.
“It will gradually build a platform allowing women to reach higher.”
Fereshteh Rouhafza, who is campaigning for Conservative candidate Saeed Jalili, the top nuclear negotiator, has called for ‘housewife’ to become an officially accepted job, and for the promotion of women as “mothers and wives”.
“The ground is not prepared for women to focus on having kids and raising them,” she said at a debate on the situation of women in the Islamic republic.But Maryam, a 28-year-old private company employee, said she sees no point in voting as “women have no voice within the regime”.
Moderate candidate Hassan Rowhani, who is also being backed by the reformist camp, has vowed that “discrimination against women will not be tolerated” by his administration, should he be elected.
“Today we need movement in the society to achieve developments. For that we need to pay attention to women,” Mr Rowhani said during his campaigning.
His pledges however have little chance of being implemented as he is not expected to be able to blunt the Conservative challenge for the presidency.
Meanwhile the only reformist candidate, Mohammad Reza Aref, pulled out of the race yesterday, under pressure from the reformist camp who believe Mr Rowhani stands a better chance of mounting a credible bid against the rival Conservatives.
Mr Aref had urged Iranian women to cast their ballot, saying “without their participation no government could execute development plans,” quoted his women affairs advisor Zohreh Alipour. Although better than those of many regional Arab countries, Iran’s laws since the Islamic revolution three decades ago are criticised as unfair to women in marriage, divorce and inheritance.