Veteran Activist Defends Women’s Presidency in Iran  

Veteran Activist Defends Women’s Presidency in Iran

A prominent Iranian women rights activist and one of the presidential hopefuls disqualified from running in the upcoming presidential election has issued a statement in defence of women’s right to become a president in Iran.

The leading women rights activist, Azam Taleqani, who had signed up to compete in Iran’s May 19 presidential elections but was disqualified by the Guardian Council from running, has defended Iranian women’s right to become a president.

According to a report by IFP, she was born in 1944 and is the daughter of Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleqani, an Iranian theologian, Muslim reformer, democracy advocate and senior Shiite cleric.

Prior to the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, she was involved in the opposition movement and the struggles against Iran’s then-reigning Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979). She was even imprisoned during the Pahlavi regime. In the first few months following the victory of the Islamic Revolution, she published a weekly newspaper titled “Hijab”, which was most probably among the very first papers published in Iran exclusively for women.

Based on Iran’s Constitution, the Iranian president should be a ‘man of politics’. However, the Guardian Council, the body responsible for interpreting the law and vetting the presidential candidates, has yet to define the term.

Taleqani has for several times run for president in previous elections, but she has been disqualified by the Guardian Council every time. The interesting point is that she has not been disqualified for ‘being a woman’, but rather for not being a ‘man of politics’.

She has repeatedly urged the Council to clearly define the term and explain why women like her, with several years of struggle against the Shah’s regime, cannot become a president in Iran.

A few days ago, she once again released a statement, defending women’s presidency in Iran, and calling on the Council to define the controversial term.

The full text of her statement, as quoted by ISNA in Farsi, reads as follows:

‘Thou mankind, indeed We have created you from a man and a woman and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another [not to practice racism, be proud of your own race or pedigree and hold your nation dearer than that of others]. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, [God lays down the criterion for deciding about the superiority of people over one another, as] Allah is Omniscience and fully aware of everything.’ (Verse 13 of the surah titled ‘Al-Hujurat’)

Therefore, all tribes and races [have been and] are equal when initially created by God and none of them is superior or inferior to the rest.

On December 28, 2016, the esteemed Guardian Council of Iran invited all Iranian elites, university professors, seminary instructors, thinkers and theoreticians in the field of law and political science and parties to submit their cogent and reasonable proposals to the Council concerning the clause 5 of the 10th paragraph of the election’s general policies regarding the conditions and criteria required to be met by presidential candidates.

In the initial days after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, it was realized that no restriction had been placed on the presidential candidates in terms of their gender in the draft version of Iran’s Constitution, which had received final approval and been, also, signed into law by Imam Khomeini. A number of the clerics and religious scholars complained about the draft’s failure to clearly and absolutely determine the gender of the country’s president and candidates for the position, saying that it was required to be stipulated in the Constitution that only men are permitted to become Iran’s president. Imam Khomeini urged them to consult other eminent religious scholars of the country. Nevertheless, after seeking other religious scholars’ opinion, they decided not to consent to allow women to be appointed the country’s president and, thus, passed the Article 115 stating that Iran’s president must be elected from the country’s ‘men of politics’ and meet certain criteria.

Therefore, it is evident that Imam Khomeini had refrained from favouring a certain gender and, even, sought to settle the issue through negotiation.

About Iran’s president, it is stipulated in the Constitution:

‘[Iran’s] President must be elected from among the country’s ‘political statesmen’ who meet the conditions and criteria that follow: Potential candidates must be originally from Iran, hold Iranian citizenship, be prudent managers, have a good reputation and background, be trustworthy, pious and true believers and believe in the principles of the Islamic Republic and the country’s official religion.’

Some maintain that the word ‘man’ in the term ‘man of politics’ means males, whereas, some hold that it denotes the president’s character and that the candidate should be an elite. Some people have accepted the former interpretation, while, a number of others believe that the latter holds true. At that time, Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini Beheshti (1928-1981) – an Iranian jurist, philosopher, cleric and politician who was known as the second person in the political hierarchy of Iran after the Islamic Revolution – had been asked to define the word and he had answered that ‘man’ denotes religious and political figures and characters.

Given Imam Khomeini’s call on religious scholars in Qom, Najaf, and Mashhad to support Islam, how is it possible that nearly 40 years after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, such a failure is still witnessed in protecting this absolute right of a large number of the Iranian people? How is it going to be compensated for?

I, as a women who has been involved and has played a role in the victory of the Islamic Revolution, personally am against making a gender-biased interpretation of the word ‘man’ in the term ‘man of politics’ in view of the Quranic pieces of evidence [provided above], according to the tradition of Shiite imams and based on wisdom. I maintain that the notion of women being able to be appointed to the country’s top positions has great religious originality, as displayed and supported by the glorious Muslim school, and also as called for and urged by the religious duty of doing equal justice to all people, this absolute right of the half of the Iranian population is required to be respected on the basis of recognizing equal rights for all people.

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