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Rouhani's Former Deputy Says His Government Has Failed Women

Former Iranian Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi, unadted.
Former Iranian Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi, unadted.

President Hassan Rouhani's former Deputy for Women and Family Affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, has admitted that the president who campaigned as a moderate and his team failed to address major problems confronting Iranian women.

Referring to various hurdles blocking the governments' plans, including harsh opposition of the conservatives and other close allies of the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Molaverdi acknowledged that, during the past six years, the Rouhani's Administration failed to present even one single bill concerning women's rights to Majles (parliament).

Failing to table bills on women's rights was our major shortcoming, Molaverdi has lamented, adding, "When I was appointed as the Deputy President for Women and Family Affairs (October 2013), I thought that I would bombard Majles with a barrage of bills related to women's rights. However, that never happened."

Sadly, Molaverdi has noted, women's rights in Iran and other countries that are experiencing a similar development has been politicized.

Molaverdi who held her position for four years during Rouhani’s first term, was replaced by Masoumeh Ebtekar in 2017 and appointed as Rouhani's Special Aide. Meanwhile, a law banning retirees to serve in governmental positions ended Molaverdi's career as a public servant in November 2018.

Pope Francis receives Iranian Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi (L), in Vatican City, February 12, 2015
Pope Francis receives Iranian Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi (L), in Vatican City, February 12, 2015

In her first interview after retirement, Molaverdi told the government's official news agency (IRNA) that any step toward improving women's public stature was immediately challenged by the conservatives and, soon, aborted.

"Our efforts to grant Iranian women their absolute rights were doomed from the very beginning, since the conservatives were, and are, very sensitive toward such issues," Molaverdi has bitterly complained, reminding, "Our opposition to issues such as child marriage and banning women from entering volleyball arenas, were silenced by the conservatives."

Presenting a list of her failures, including efforts to save women from home violence, granting citizenship rights to the children of Iranian women married to foreigners, and banning stepfathers to marry their adopted daughters, Molaverdi reiterates that all such attempts were a non-starter and doomed to fail from the time of their inception.

Giving herself a grade of ten out of twenty, Molaverdi insists that she had somehow succeeded in ending the hardline former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policy of "denial" and "cover up" of facts.

Nearly two years ago, Molaverdi made the headlines by referring to a village in the impoverished province of Sistan&Baluchestan, southeast Iran, where all its male residents were executed.

Without naming the village, Molaverdi disclosed that the entire male population of the village was executed for their alleged role in drug trafficking.

“The children of the executed criminals are also already drug traffickers. They want to avenge the deaths of their fathers. At the same time, they are feeding their families with money from the drug trade and the people of this village cannot be protected,” Molaverdi told the state-run Mehr News Agency (MNA) at the time.

"We believe that if we do not support these people, they will be prone to crime, that's why society is responsible for the families of those executed," Molaverdi told MNA.

Molaverdi had also disclosed the fact that babies are sold in Iran even long before being born. Immediately, she was summoned to the courts and charged for "spreading fake news" and blamed for feeding foreign-based media (including Radio Farda) with anti-Islamic establishment information.

Defending her position, Molaverdi had fired back, "Are we supposed to keep mum, because foreign media might refer to our comments?"

Molaverdi was replaced by Masoumeh Ebtekar, renowned as Sister Mary among the U.S. diplomats taken hostage in 1980 in Tehran, almost immediately after the downfall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran.