CAIRO — Women’s rights activists say they aren’t fooled by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nomination of the first female Cabinet ministers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, calling it a ploy to improve his popularity that will actually hurt the cause of women.
With the nominations of three women for his new government, the hard-line president appears to be seeking to burnish his image at a time when he is under siege from the pro-reform opposition, which claims he won the June presidential election by fraud.
Since coming to power in 2005, Ahmadinejad has cracked down hard on women activists, arresting many involved in a campaign to overturn laws seen as discriminatory to women. Still, he has touted himself as a new, more modern-thinking leader within Iran’s hard-line, religiously conservative camp, one that promotes women’s rights in an “Islamic context.”
Alireza Nader, an Iran specialist with the Washington-based RAND Corp., said Ahmadinejad was trying to siphon support away from opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims he was the true winner in the June election. Mousavi campaigned on a platform of improving women’s rights and energized crowds by having his high-powered wife hit the campaign trail with him.
“I don’t think the majority of the population, especially those who have been protesters, will necessarily buy” Ahmadinejad’s move, said Nader.