Women Who Entered Scene of Presidential Elections

By : Parastou Dokouhaki
Zanan, Monthly Magazine, No. 76, Jun. 2001, Page 16 - 20
Word Count : 4099

On the first day of the beginning of the campaign for the 8th presidential elections (May 2, 2001), two women registered their names as candidates. Of course, one of the two had announced her candidacy nine months in advance. Since May 6, the last day of the registration deadline, the number of women candidates amounted to 47 that was unprecedented in the history of presidential elections in the country especially that previously eligibility of women candidates had always been rejected.
Two days later, the Public Relations Office of the Guardian Council announced its programs of probing into the eligibility of 814 candidates of whom 5.77 percent were women. Out of the 47 women candidates we could make contact with 28 as a number of candidates showed reluctance to talk and a number of others could not be reached. All of the 28 candidates except for one entered the scene of the elections independently and the age difference between the youngest and the oldest was 50 years. Who were those women and why did they announce their candidacy for the post of president?"

Women Hold the Key to the Problems
In September 2000 Farah Khosravi Talebi announced her candidacy for the 8th term of the presidential elections. She is the only woman who has not entered the scene independently. She says: "My candidacy was raised and approved at the session of the central council of the `Iran Farda' Society. I accepted to enter the scene as I saw no objection to it."

Khosravi is 50 years old and not married. She holds a post-diploma degree in mathematics and computer sciences and is an expert at the Science, Research and Technology Ministry. She registered the Iran Farda Society in 1998 and was elected its secretary general. It is said that the society is within the spectrum of the Conservatives but Khosravi stresses that the Iran Farda "is a completely independent group and has no inclination towards the right or the left. It has its own ideology. Of course, when we notice that there are people whose political tendencies are in conformity with ours, we support them. Support of other groups for us is merely for the simple reason that they see our policies are to some extent close to their political lines."

However, the enthusiasm for participation in the 8th term of presidential elections gave way to withdrawal from the competition four days prior to the announcement of the final list of the candidates. Farah Khosravi announced her withdrawal on 23 Ordibehest. Five says after the announcement when finally I could make a contact with her, she declined to mention the reason for her withdrawal. Of course she stressed that there was a political reason behind her decision. As for the reaction of people to her candidacy, she said: "Women were quite happy but reactions in my working environment was very negative. They created tension and tried to ensnare me but failed in their attempt."

In her view women's problems are rooted in relevant laws. "Laws in our country are completely pro men and all legal issues are in favor of men. Another point is that women play no outstanding role in key positions. For example, in certain cases when a man and a woman enjoy equal qualifications, priority is always given to the man." She however stresses: "All people, especially men, should accept this reality that the key to all the problems and difficulties is in the hands of women."

Khosravi was an independent candidate from Tehran in the 5th and 6th term of the parliamentary elections but failed to obtain the required number of votes. On the reason for her lack of success in the Majlis (Islamic Consultative Assembly) elections, she says: "The Iran Farda Society had not taken shape properly and, therefore, I did not have sufficient means for publicity." As for the performance of the Guardian Council, she says: "The term `rejal' (statesman) should be debated in a friendly and peaceful manner. If you had noticed this time the Guardian Council did not take the usual firm attitude towards the issue of gender as it used to take in the past. This shows that they too prefer to solve the issue somehow."

What Does `Rejal' Mean by the Way?
When four years ago Azam Taleqani demanded the Guardian Council to offer its own interpretation of the term `rejal' that has been mentioned in Article 115 of the Constitution, perhaps no one could think that the subject would be repeated by a number of other women in the course of the 8th term of presidential elections.

Samira Shams, 19, who holds a diploma says: "I put a step forward to experience the reaction of the Guardian Council in connection with the term `rejal'. I think the Guardian Council believes that the term `rejal' only concerns the men otherwise it would have approved the eligibility of Azam Taleqani in the previous term because she is a well-known political figure and has strong feeling of self-confidence. "I was fully aware of the fact that I could not be a serious rival for Mr. Khatami, of course only for Mr. Khatami and not other candidates."

Masoumeh Mohammadi is 38 years and not married. She says: "In view of the Guardian Council, well-known political figures are those who are active within the same category as they are. Unfortunately, they do not pay attention to the fact that they have already offered whatever within their own capacity from ideological point of view. At the time when several thousands of people are graduated from universities and join the society annually, no doubt there are new thoughts and initiatives among them that can offer new and better programs. Of course, there is also the possibility that new laws deprive women of entering certain realm of activities. However, there is also the possibility that those who have entered various scenes of society but have not yet found the opportunity to serve in certain positions may be more experienced. It would have been better if through elections new faces could find the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in serving the society."

Somayyeh Haji is 22 years old. She is married and is working with `Siyasat Rouz' and `Tose-e' dailies as a photographer. Once when she was at the Interior Ministry to file a report on the registration of candidates, she decided to enroll herself. "I had the feeling to become a candidate myself. In fact I intended to prove it to myself that I can accomplish great jobs if only I decide to do so." She pauses for a few seconds and continues: "I just wanted to see whether as a woman I am eligible or not. I do not think the Guardian Council will ever approve the eligibility of any woman."

However, some of the women candidates who registered for the 8th presidential elections are not as pessimistic as her. Zahra Baratlou says: "The law concerning the term `rejal' and its interpretation should be revised. I think they (Guardian Council) themselves have reached the conclusion that women are also entitled to become president. Of course it is hard to say what are the Guardian Council's factors in rejecting or approving the eligibility of candidates and what decision it would adopt given the present situation in the society."

Baratlou, 31, is single and holds a B.A. degree in law from Azad University. She says her candidacy is a `start' for her future careers. She says: "I decided to take advantage of the opportunity in order not to remain stagnant. Although the post of president is a high status that demands high expertise and specialization, however, women in other countries have proved highly successful in this post, including Mrs. Gandhi."

Fereshteh Sayyadi Shirtari is 31 years and not married. She is a teacher of English language. She says: "I just wanted to encourage women who are active and have become candidate in several parliamentary elections or held key positions to enter the scene and demonstrate their capabilities."

She says: "If the Guardian Council values the entire Iranian nation, then we all could expect the body not to reject the eligibility of women simply."

Interpretation of the term `rejal' is also a preoccupation for Akram Jahanmard Arani who is 29 years old and married. She has a BA in commercial management and is active as an independent businesswoman. She also demands a thorough interpretation of the term `rejal'.

We Also Practice Wisdom and Instinct
Eshrat Salahi Abadi, 35, is married and works as a reporter for the weekly `Payam-e Zanjan'. She is active at Imam Hussein Basij base of Zanjan. She says: "I became a candidate so that the Supreme Leader would make a revision in the laws. The role that women play in the society and in the field of politics should become more highlighted. As it was noticed, the Leader in his recent remarks attached great value to women." She stresses: "I only support the Leader and move in his path. We all need him and even Mr. Khatami is also making consultations with the Leader."

Dr. Fatemeh Fadaei Fathabadi, 40, is married and a university lecturer. She says: "Our Islamic society should adjust itself with the entire world. In many countries of the world women hold such positions as president and prime minister. When the Constitution was approved people held different ideas. Now we also practice wisdom and instinct. Therefore, the laws should be revised in an effort to enable women to demonstrate active presence in various fields. Fatemeh Fadaei was a candidate for the 6th term of parliamentary elections from Tehran constituency and obtained about 135,000 votes.

My Candidacy Was A Symbolic Gesture
Maryam Arabi is 41 years and is married. She is the chairperson of the martial law board at the Sports Department of Tehran Province. She says: "What I did was a symbolic gesture because I just wanted to show that women too could enter many scenes. I did not mean to become president because I approve of Mr. Khatami."

Sura Balali, 46 and married says: "I know well that I won't become a president because in Iran women are not allowed to take the post. But, however, I became a candidate to express myself so that other women would follow suit and get involved in administrative affairs."

Azam Banou Rashidi, 61, is a teacher. She too says: "I became a candidate only to pave the way for other women. However, I am obedient to the Leader. If the Leader's ultimate view is that women should not participate in the presidential elections, I will never ever participate in the elections in future."

Almost two years have passed since Ashraf-ol-Sadat Mir-Sadeqi's appointment as the director of `Shaereh' Publishing House. She is 46, married and a poet herself. She believes that the major problem of women is in the area of culture. She says: "Women have been grown up in families wherein they have been treated as second degree creatures. In fact, given the prevailing atmosphere of supremacy of men over women, men have always been treated differently in the society. Through my candidacy I try to initiate a new cultural movement among women so that they would always think of great tasks and never downgrade themselves." Mir-Sadeqi was a candidate in the 6th term of parliamentary elections but failed to find her way into the parliament.

Never Think About My Candidacy as a Symbolic Gesture Mowloud Shahidi holds a different idea. On her motive behind her candidacy in the presidential elections, she says: "Don't think my candidacy was a symbolic gesture. Is it not true that Hadhrat Zaiynab (S) expressed herself at the court of Yezid? Of course, I do not mean that, God forbid, here is a Yezidi court." Shahidi is 55, married and a high school teacher. She holds a BA in Islamic divinity.

She further says: "The Guardian Council can by no mans reject my eligibility as it should prove the opposite. My ancestors have been prominent religious figures generation by generation and I have been brought up by a person who had been Haj-Aqa (Imam) Ruhollah Khomeini's teacher. I consider myself being among the political personage. If they reject my eligibility I will publish it on the and let the world know it!"

I believed interpretation of `rejal' has been changed!
The fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) broadcast the list of the presidential hopefuls everyday, informed many people of the candidacy of women in this term of presidential elections.
Mozhgan Zardoshtian, 33 and single, is a teacher from the city of Paveh in Kermanshah Province. She decided to register her name as a candidate when, as she says, "I saw in the TV that a number of women have become candidate. This made me more decisive. Through my candidacy I want to declare that women are capable of being active in whatever post and position."

Atifeh Attaran, 19, is a student of post-diploma computer sciences. She also works at a notary office. She says: "I was watching TV when I noticed that a number of candidates in presidential elections are women. I thought myself perhaps the interpretation of the term `rejal' has been changed and now the general meaning of the world is being taken into consideration." She says: "It is not important if they reject my eligibility. Rather, what is important is that it is being registered in the history that a number of women have announced their candidacy for the post of president."

Faezeh Asgari-Fard is 23 years old, single and an expert in social sciences. She too found out through watching TV that women have announced their candidacy in the presidential elections. "It was the first time that I noticed women have become candidate. Perhaps they had been candidate in previous terms but I did not know. I thought myself until now we could only elect but henceforth we could be elected as well. However, this time too there is the possibility that eligibility of none of the women candidates would be approved." As for the problems of women, she says: "Women have not been supported in our laws. We are not even informed of the rare cases in which women have been supported."

She believes that women should actively participate in the future terms of presidential elections because, as she says, "only women can defend their own rights."

We have slapped in the face those opposing women's presence! Fariba Kazempour, 39, is married and in charge of the training of the youth at Fadak Complex affiliated with the Endowment Department of Karaj. She has a different idea. She says: "I did not intend to have my name be announced by TV or printed in the press. I just had a feeling of responsibility and for this purpose I entered the scene."

Kazempour was active in the treatment of the disabled in the course of the 1980-88 Iraqi imposed war. She points to a narration from the book `Montazeran-e Mahdi' and says: "It is said that when Hadhrat Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) reappears, women are in a superior position than men from intellectual point of view."
Zahra Shojaan is 46 years and married. Although she predicted the possibility for the rejection of her eligibility, however, she announced her candidacy. Because, she says, "I am a Basij (volunteer force) member and in my opinion a Basiji should always show an active presence in the society. For this reason, I declared my candidacy. The very pint that we women can be active in the society is a slap in their face." In her definition for "their" she immediately explains, "in fact they are hypocrites. Those who say Iranian women are not active and those who do not wish to see Iranian women enjoy freedom."

Shojaan was a candidate in the elections for Tehran City Council but failed to obtain the required votes.

Fereshteh Ebrahim is 41 years old and married. She teaches divinity. She says: "Women have been prone to oppression all through history. If women in the Islamic Republic of Iran are provided with the opportunity to be present in the presidential elections, I think this could be a great lesson for humanity. They should come to know that although men and women are different in their physical abilities, however, merits and intellects of women are in certain cases stronger than men." She is not concerned about being elected to not. "The mere point that we are present at the scene is tantamount to the fact that we have accomplished our religious, social and moral obligations."

Fereshteh Ebrahim was a candidate for the 6th term of parliamentary elections but failed to obtain the required number of votes. She says the reason for her participation in the presidential elections is "feeling of responsibility".

I Will Open An All-Women Factory
Some of the women candidates underscore solving of women's problems as the priority of their working agenda.

Masoumeh Ebrahimi is 32 years old. She is married and is a teacher. She believes in economic independence of women. "If every woman can stand on her feet and be independent economically, many of the existing problems will be solved. Job opportunities should be created for women."

Akram Jahanmard-Arani is wishing to create job opportunities for women. "I wish to create job creating environments, especially for women because the number of unemployed women is high. I have decided to open a factory where all staff members are women."

Rana Qarah-Chaei is 51 years old. She is not married. She is a housewife and lives in Karaj. "Presently there are many differences between men and women. Therefore, women cannot think freely as men do. This creates some problems in all fields, including in the area of employment, promotion of skills," she believes. However, she is decisive to solve those problems.

Fariba Kazempour too believes that women suffer malnutrition in the society. "My prime task is to legally support women and girls who have no bread winner.

I Will Turn Iran Into A Second Japan Within Two Years
Other women follow more general aims. Saryeh Sadat Teymouri Barani who is a 43 year housewife says that elimination of poverty is the main core of her program. She believes that high prices have their negative impacts on life as addiction has. She says: "With the Grace of God and assistance of the Leader's Office I will make plans so that the price of chicken will drop to as low as 200 rials. Given my firm determination, I am sure I will be successful in realizing my aims. Whatever I say I will put into practice later. I have been like this since my childhood. I am famous for such a characteristic within my own family."

Elahe Namini is 32 years old and married. She says: "I was decisive to take a positive step for my country. The Leader himself has stated that every person who is capable of taking a positive step for his/her county should announce candidacy."

She believes that if women are allowed for once to serve in the post of president, all the state affairs will be regulated. "Because women are entangled with more problems, therefore, they feel more responsibility towards finding solutions to the country's problems." She believes that women are not properly respected in Iran. "For example, in the case of public transportation, why women are not allowed to use buses freely? Is there any law to confine women to a small limited place in buses?"

As for the rejection of eligibility of women, she says: "If this time the Guardian Council rejects the eligibility of women, it should be responsive. I hope at least the name of a woman candidate would remain in the final list otherwise it will connote certain meaning. That is to say, they are totally opposing the presidency of women. I do not think in a country with a republic system there should be any impediment on the way of women to become president." She further continues: "Unfortunately, the atmosphere they have created is rather closed. That is to say, the number one man approved number two person and the latter approved the former in a bid to preserve his own status. They would not allow a new person, a new face or a new gender enter the system."

Touran Jamili is 56 years old and from Zanjan. She names herself the only woman journalist hit by mortar shrapnel in the front line of the war (1980-88). Jamili says: "A university professor may prove successful in lecturing his students but this does not mean that he could be a good chief executive as the president should demonstrate his ability to offer initiatives and this should be proved to all."

She says she had been a candidate in the 7th term of the presidential elections and stresses: "With the guidelines of the Leader and within two years, I will turn Iran into a second Japan. If I receive assistance in this respect, I promise to accomplish this."

Touran Jamili claims that the government owes her 60 billion rials and says: "I have done some work and conducted some research works and this 60 billion rials has been gifted to me." When asked to further elaborate on her research works, she says: "My research works are in medical field and I am a stringer. If you ever notice something hard to discover, tell me and I will find it within a month."
On the day of her registration, she had told IRNA that she was working for the Economist.

I An A Gifted Person
Some women candidates have followed different aims. Effat Sarshar, 58, is single and works in the administrative section of the Justice Department. She says: "I have been gifted with strong initiative. I like people very much. Therefore, I decided to help my fellow countrymen in the post of president." She believes: "Women are more suitable for undertaking important posts because they are more concerned about the affairs and handle issues with more care." Ehserin Rostami is 19 years old and holds a high school diploma. She is getting prepared for the university entrance exams. She says: "So far I have had no specific political-social activities. But, since I have decided to participate in the next parliamentary and presidential elections, I decided to become a candidate to gain experience for future terms."

She believes that women are treated unjustly in our country, especially from economic point of view. Women do not enjoy a desirable status."

Zahra Hassanzadeh Siahpoushi who is 32 years old and holds B.A. in chemistry, is a teacher. She is not married. She had predicted in advance that her eligibility would be rejected because, she says, "I have neither held a senior post nor my family were among well-known people." On the reason for her candidacy, she says: "I just wanted to let my voice be heard by others. I wanted to say that brain drain has reached a catastrophic degree and that students show no enthusiasm towards learning."

This time too women were rejected for not being eligible to run for president. Who knows perhaps in the next presidential elections in four years time the number of women candidates would double. Then the Guardian Council would be faced with the question that how it would treat so many women applicants?

Back to top

Front Page