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Rohani Names Two Women Vice Presidents, But None In Cabinet

Iranian President Hassan Rohani

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has named two women as vice presidents, a day after proposing a government that included no women in cabinet positions.

Rohani's presidential website announced August 9 that he appointed Masumeh Ebtekar as vice president for women and family affairs and Laaya Joneidi as vice president for legal affairs.

Ebtekar was Rohani's vice president for the environment department during his first term, one of three female appointees. Another was Shahindokht Molaverdi, who Rohani named as assistant on citizenship rights.

Iranian presidents appoint a number of vice presidents -- positions that do not need parliamentary approval.

On August 8, Rohani proposed 17 men for 18 cabinet positions to parliament. All cabinet members must be approved by legislators over the coming week.

A nominee for science minister has not been announced. Rohani also has several more deputy positions to fill and it was unclear if any would go to women.

The cleric had no women as cabinet ministers in his first term either, despite being a moderate and emphasizing women's rights in his campaign.

The lack of any women among Rohani's new ministers has been strongly criticized by his reformist allies, who say he has bowed to pressure from the Iran's religious establishment.

Rohani, a relative moderate, was sworn in on August 5 after winning reelection in May with the support of reformists and women after vowing to improve civil liberties and rebuild ties with the West.

Nevertheless, Rouhani had earlier made it clear that he was not going to appoint women for ministerial positions, “Appointing women for serving in key positions should be done in a step by step manner”, he maintained on Saturday, June 24.

Women are kept out of Rouhani’s cabinet while they played a crucial role in his re-election.

The only woman to hold a cabinet position in Iran since 1979 was Marzieh Dastjerdi, who served as Health Minister from 2009-13 under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran is one of the first countries in the region to have appointed women as cabinet ministers. Farrokhroo Parsa, was an Iranian physician, educator and parliamentarian as well as the first female cabinet minister under the Shah, from 1968-1971.

After the 1979 revolution, she was accused of ambiguous charges by an Islamic revolutionary court and later executed by a firing squad.

According to the list Rohani submitted to parliament on August 8, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, and Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi are to retain their posts.

Acting Defense Minister Amir Hatami is expected to officially take over that portfolio. Hatami, who is a general, would become the first defense chief selected from the national army in nearly three decades.

Since 1989, Iranian defense ministers were either civilians or, more recently, members of the influential Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Lawmakers are not expected to challenge Rohani's choices for the ministries of foreign affairs, defense, and intelligence, as presidents select them with Khamenei's approval.

Under the Iranian political system, the supreme leader is commander in chief of the armed forces, appoints the head of the Judiciary, and dictates major policies of the country.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP