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Letter From 175 MPs Asks Rouhani To Appoint Female Ministers

A general view of the Iranian parliament.

In a letter addressed to President Hassan Rouhani and read in parliament’s open session, 175 MPs have called for appointing “competent and merited” women as ministers in the next cabinet.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Administrative Council approved a resolution that commits the government to appoint 30% of the national managers working for the executive branch of the country from among female candidates.

“Along the line of the ‘sustainable development’ plan, where women … competent and merited women should be employed as cabinet ministers,” semi-official Mehr News Agency, MNA, quoted MPs letter as saying.

After Rouhani’s re-election, a number of MPs and political activists have urged Rouhani to employ more women in his next administration. They include also the reformists, who supported Rouhani in the election.

However, several political activists, including Ashraf Boroujerdi and Azar Mansouri have lamented that, most probably, no woman is going to be nominated for a ministerial cabinet position in Rouhani’s future government.

Rouhani, for his part, has not directly commented on the matter since he was reelected in May 19. Yet, on Saturday, June 24, he said, “Appointing women for high capacity posts should be done in a step by step manner and it is not possible to install women in high positions, in one go.”

Nevertheless, two months earlier, while for the first after re-election Rouhani convened a cabinet meeting, he called for employing more youth and women in managerial positions. “In [May 19 presidential election] voices of people, including youth and women’s were heard,” Rouhani added.

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. She served as Minister of Education 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.

It took more than four decades for Iran to have another woman as cabinet minister.

For the first time in post revolution Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadnejad nominated three women as cabinet ministers in his second term. Parliament approved only one of them, 49 years old Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, then 49, as Minister of Health and Medical Education (2009-2013).

Rouhani, during his first term, did not nominate any female ministers. However, he appointed Elham Aminzadeh, Massoumeh Ebtekar and Shahindokht Molaverdi as his deputies for legal, environment and women and family affairs, respectively.

Furthermore, last June, Farzaneh Sharafbafi was installed as Iranian National Airways’, HOMA, Chief Executive Officer.

Many human Rights Organizations have long been unhappy that Iranian women’s abilities are ignored by the Islamic governments in Tehran. On Wednesday, May 24, Human Rights Watch bitterly criticized discrimination against Iranian women and the hurdles they are facing in different walks of life and called Tehran to review its laws concerning women.

“While more than 50% of graduates in Iran are women, their share in the country’s labor force is less than 17%.

According to 2016 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Iran is placed at 139th place out of 144 countries.

“There is a clear values-based case for promoting gender parity: women are one-half of the world’s population and evidently deserve equal access to health, education, economic participation and earning potential, and political decision-making power.” the report says.

“However, it is pertinent to note that gender parity is equally fundamental to whether and how societies thrive. Ensuring the healthy development and appropriate use of half of the world’s total talent pool has a vast bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide”, it adds.