On 14 June, Iran will hold a presidential election, its first since the controversial 2009 elections that gave rise to widespread protest. Once again, observers are concerned about the heavy degree of control exercised by the Guardian Council, an unelected body of clerics, over the electoral process. Women’s rights are also emerging as a divisive issue for the candidates.
In total, 686 candidates registered to run for president of Iran. All but eight, however, have been disqualified by the Guardian Council – including all of the leading reformists and all of the female candidates. On 16 May, Mohammed Yazdi announced on behalf of the Council that women would not be permitted to run, arguing that the “law does not approve” of women’s candidacy. While some candidates, such as Hasan Rowhani, have advocated for the rights of women, others have indicated little sympathy for women’s issues.
Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi is amongst those who, in the wake of the contentious 2009 election, were forced into hiding or exile. As Friday’s election approaches, Ebadi has called for fair elections and an end to such legal discrimination against women:
“The only way out of this political cul-de-sac would be if a freely-elected government took over – a government that ended international conflicts, led Iran out of its isolation, and stopped violating human rights. […] The young Iranian society, the powerful citizen’s initiatives, the women’s and workers’ movements – in the right constellation and circumstances, these players can form a good foundation for freedom and democracy in Iran.”
The new sufragettes: Shirin Ebadi – the campaigner who has become an international figurehead for women’s rights, The Independent, 30 May 2013
Iran presidential candidates debate freedoms, women’s rights ahead of June 14 vote, Washington Post, 5 June 2013
Iran election: Cleric rules out women candidates, BBC News, 16 May 2013
Dark shadows over Iran, Deutsche Welle, 27 May 2013
Visit Vote4Zahra.org, a campaign based around a fictional female candidate for the Iranian presidency, to have your say in their survey!