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Now Comes the Real Revolution

By Elaine Sciolino
The New York Times
September 24, 2000

On the annual Woman's Day in Iran last week, a conservative bureaucrat named Farah Khosravi announced that she wanted to run for president in next year's election.

Women make up 25 percent of Iran's labor force and half of the university population. They drive their own cars and run their own businesses, vote in elections and hold political office. So why not a woman president?

In fact, Ms. Khosravi, who is 41 years old and is in charge of the exercise curriculum for Iran's schools, is not the first woman to express such ambitions.

During her successful campaign for Parliament in 1996, Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of then President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani declared that there was no reason under Iran's Constitution why a woman could not run for president. Her musings fueled speculation that she might seek the office, but she eventually said she was just trying to stir things up.

The issue was picked up the following year by Azam Taleghani, the daughter of the late Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani, a celebrated cleric who had been prominent in the Iranian revolution. She announced her candidacy for president. Ms. Taleghani had been elected to the revolution's first parliament and ran an outspoken (now banned) weekly newspaper.

Her action forced a debate on Iran's Constitution, which said that only a rajol -- a person of consequence -- could run. In Arabic, the concept is masculine, but Ms. Taleghani argued that in Persian its meaning is not clear and she asked the opinion of the religious scholars who drafted the 1979 Constitution.

Some said that women could not become president; others said they could; still others said they didn't know. One said that even hermaphrodites could be president.

In the end, the Guardian Council, which vets political candidates, disqualified Ms. Taleghani, as it did all but 4 of 230 would-be candidates.

Still, Ms. Taleghani counted the ruling a victory. She was told she couldn't run because she was not "a religious and political personality," not because she was a woman.


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