|Ms Elham Aminzadeh
Shahrzadnews:The absence of women in Hassan Rouhani’s proposed cabinet has provoked widespread criticism of the newly-elected president from women’s right activists. They accuse him of sexual discrimination and demand a greater role for women in Iranian social and political life.
The Asre Iran news website said: “We appreciate Mr. Rouhani’s policy of appointing ministers according to their expertise and suitability. But by the same token, can he not find, from the millions available, a single Iranian woman qualified to head one of his ministries?”
Former MP Elahe Koulayi reacted by telling the ISNA news agency that the absence of a woman in the cabinet “sends a very negative message. More than anything else, our society needs to develop towards one based on equal participation and opportunity.” Meanwhile journalist and women’s rights activist Parastoo Sarmadi told the agency: “Hopes of achieving our rights under the Rouhani administration have been dampened. The absence of women in his cabinet makes us question the honesty of his pre-election slogans.” The same agency however reports that Rouhani has appointed Ms Elham Aminzadeh – a religious conservative – as deputy for legal affairs.
Amidst widespread public dialogue opposing Rouhani’s decision not to include women, he eventually felt forced to respond. “I promised that I would create just and equal opportunities for women and I stand by that. I shall certainly offer positions to women in my administration, both as ministers and as deputies, so that they can attend cabinet meetings. But if one woman becomes a minister, the female population should still not be content. All backwardness must be removed from our society and that also applies to management posts. I have advised my proposed ministers that they must employ women if they wish to see progress in their departments.”
“One woman in the cabinet does not mean that women’s rights have been achieved, on the contrary. We must all work hard to make up for the long-standing denial of their rights, and this can only be achieved when both genders have equal opportunities.”
Despite Rouhani’s assurances, Iranian women’s activists are not sitting back, but continue to fight for their rights through public campaigns for the establishment of a Ministry for Women, whereby women will be able challenge discriminatory laws. This will no doubt lead to more confrontation between them and the new rulers.