Meet the Islamist Hardeline Women of Iran Who Ahmedinejad wants in his Cabinet
August 30, 2009 - Tarek Fatah
Meet the Islamist hardline women of Iran who Ahmedinejad wants in his cabinet
Much has been made by Leftist supporters of the Islamic regime in Iran about the decision by Ahmedinejad to have female ministers in his next cabinet. On paper, this seems a like a hopeful sign, but like all things Islamist, this move fits the adage, “one step forward, two steps backward.”
Massoumeh Torfeh is a research associate at the Centre for Media and Film at SOAS and a former BBC World Service senior producer. In an article for the UK Guardian, she says:
“Both women, as members of Iran's parliament, have been advocating draconian changes to family laws and women's rights laws making it even more difficult for women to benefit from equal rights, get divorced, have custody of their children, or have an abortion if they so choose. They are both strong supporters of the role of women as pious mothers devoted to Islam, to their duties to their husbands, and to the Islamic republic.”
Read and reflect.
Monday 17 August 2009
Hardline women won't help Iran
I wish I could feel proud about the proposal for female cabinet members in Iran – but they will do nothing for equal rights
The Guardian, UK
It is difficult to know how to react to the decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran to propose three women in his new cabinet, two of whom he has already named. Should I be proud, as an Iranian woman, that for the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic women will be proposed for cabinet posts? Well, I wish I could feel proud. The reality is that if Ahmadinejad had chosen two ultra-hardline conservative men for the same posts it would have made no difference in terms of policy and vision.
He has proposed Fatemeh Ajorlou for the welfare and social security ministry and Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi for the health ministry. Both women, as members of Iran's majlis or parliament, have been advocating draconian changes to family laws and women's rights laws making it even more difficult for women to benefit from equal rights, get divorced, have custody of their children, or have an abortion if they so choose. They are both strong supporters of the role of women as pious mothers devoted to Islam, to their duties to their husbands, and to the Islamic republic.
Ajorlou, who is an MP in the present parliament, is a notorious advocate of punishment of women who ignore the dress code. She is an outspoken supporter of the chador – the head-to-toe black Islamic cover – as the protector of women's chastity and modesty.
Her professional career has been in serving the Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia. She worked as a nurse in the Revolutionary Guards and later was influential in setting up the Basij Sisters militia, which has been involved in brutal attacks and arrests of women's rights activists. More recently she advocated the controversial draft law for positive discrimination for men in attending universities. That had become necessary, according to Ajorlou, because girls had won 70% of university places, thereby causing an "imbalance" in society. More generally she believes that western societies have lost their morality because women have given priority to their jobs rather than their families.
Vahid-Dastjerdi, who was an MP in two previous parliaments, is perhaps, professionally, a suitable candidate for the ministry of health as she has spent most of her career in medical practice and research specialising in women's infertility. However, she is another clear hardliner. During her days as an MP, Vahid-Dastjerdi opposed the bill that could have facilitated Iran joining the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The most intriguing question is why Ahmadinejad has chosen to propose women in his cabinet when he knows full well that the Islamic establishment does not allow women to be "leaders". While women can work as deputy ministers or as advisers to ministers, there is a serious debate between the reformists and conservatives on whether women can be "allowed" to lead an entire ministry.
Perhaps Ahmadinejad is hoping that he would be a winner whatever the outcome. If the parliament or the Islamic establishment does not approve his choice of women ministers, he could still claim he had tried to raise the status of women. If they do accept his nominations, then he could champion the cause of womenwhile still having two hardliners in his cabinet.
Ahmadinejad, who has recently witnessed thousands of women marching against his presidency in the streets of Tehran and other major cities, may be wishing to appease women by his cabinet selection. He tried once before to make it legal for girls to attend football stadiums. Young girls keen on football welcomed the decision but the Islamic authorities vetoed it. This time the scenario may be even harsher. Both women and the Islamic establishment could reject his choice. With the increasing number of women arrested, imprisoned and killed during his presidency – accused of advocating women's equal rights – Ahmadinejad will find it hard to convince women that this latest move is anything but another political show.