After elections, Iranian women’s demands are forgotten

Despite women’s attempts to find a voice in Iran’s politics, their presence has been minimal and cosmetic.

Iran’s parliamentary elections this year included the highest number ever of women candidates from the combined reformist-moderate camp. Supporters of President Hassan Rouhani joined forces with the reformists presenting a combined list of 30 candidates for Tehran, eight – less than one-third – of which are women.

More or less, the same pattern was seen across the country. Photos of women candidates were branded around on campaign posters and the reformist media hailed this as a major success.

Despite persistent attempts by women to find a voice in the politics of the Islamic Republic, their presence has been minimal and, for the most part, cosmetic. It is now almost the norm that at important historical junctures, the male-dominated conservative establishment calls upon women to perform their “Islamic duty” and participate in elections. Once the elections are over, however, women’s demands are forgotten.

The encouragement to participate in this year’s elections came first from the spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“There is no need for women to take permission from their husbands to take part in the elections,” he said in one of his guidelines on elections.

Some newspaper columnists took this to be a liberating step. But since it is not a general edict and it refers only to women casting their vote, it can only be interpreted as a measure to persuade higher participation.

World public opinion

Rouhani followed suit, stressing the importance of the post-nuclear-deal environment, saying: “Women’s presence in elections is important for world public opinion.”

Source: Al Jazeera. Date: 28 February 2016