Saturday, 13 June 2009

The courage of women in Iran

Iran's voters are poised to go to the polls, and it seems that the conservative incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be challenged by the reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi.

This fab Salon article, The woman Ahmadinejad should fear, tells the story of Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi. The article argues Zahra has been deliberately and visibly involved by her husband in his presidential campaign - a clear sign that Mir Hossein Mousavi, if elected, will liberalise restrictive laws facing Iran's women.

The former chancellor of a women's university in Tehran, Zahra is quite clearly more than just a poster girl. And she's made clear that she has no aspiration to become Iran's answer to Michelle Obama - rather, she wants to remain faithful to Muslim principles while providing leadership as a woman. Let's hope she gets the chance to tread that difficult road.


Hugh said...

I wonder what sort of role she played in the 80s, when Mousavi was Prime Minister?

I'm kind of surprised that she 'has no aspiration to become Iran's answer to Michelle Obama'. What, exactly, is wrong with Michelle Obama in her mind?

katy said...

I agree it is an interesting comment given that Michelle Obama has indicated that her primary role is as a caregiver. But good on her, that is exciting news!

Anna said...

I'd assume that the not being Michelle Obama comment about not being seen to be capitulating to the US, rather than an attack on Obama herself? Would be interesting to know more - but it looks at this stage like she's not going to get the chance to be first lady.

stargazer said...

the really difficult thing about this election to me was that the pro-reform candidate would appear to be right wing, particularly in the way he talks about the free market. part of his reforms might include privatisation and selling off strategic assets. mr ahmedinijad, on the other hand, speaks of spreading iran's oil wealth across the country more fairly.

the dilemma for me then becomes (and i'm so glad i wasn't voting in that election!): should i go with my feminist principles and go for a candidate who might provide much-needed liberal reforms for women (although it's not certain that he would), or do i go with my social democratic principle and go for a candidate who promises to look after the most vulnerable (although it's not certain that he would). particularly in regards to a country without an extensive social welfare system, i would seriously have to ask myself what would be gained by removing the chador if the cost of that was that the poorest women could not afford to feed their children.

the results are now known, so we won't find out in the near future whether or not zahra rahnavard would have made a difference.

Hugh said...

I appreciate your dilemma Stargazer. Usually in the west social liberalism and social democracy go together, but on a global basis the connection is less common.

That being said, I think despite Ahmedinijad's rhetoric about closing the gaps is just that; rhetoric. His record for the last four years is utterly devoid of any substantial moves to narrow the class divide.

Adhmedinijad doesn't come from Iran's existing ruling class, and I think he gets a lot of support from the poor for this reason, even though he doesn't do very much for them when he is in power.

Anna said...

The comment about freedom being good for business at the end of the Salon articles hints at this dilemma. There seems to be a tendency to uncritically use women's rights as a yardstick for measuring 'civilisation' when Western media discuss Muslim politics - one wonders if the concern is genuine, or the issue is used to paint Muslims as barbaric while avoiding conversation about other political issues like wealth distribution. The civil unrest arising from the election is a concern.