Saturday, January 22, 2005

Conflicting Reports Over Whether Iran Will Allow Women To Run For President

TEHRAN, Iran, Jan. 22 — State-run media reported Saturday that Iran's hard-line leadership decided to allow women to run for president in June elections, but a spokesman later denied the change.

There was no immediate explanation for the denial. It was not known if the earlier announcement was a mistake or whether the hard-line Guardian Council had reversed its decision.

Throughout the day, state-run radio and television carried reports quoting council spokesman Gholamhossein Elham as saying the council had changed its policy and allowed women to run.

But in the evening, the media reported Elham denied the new stance.

''The Guardian Council's previous opinion has not changed,'' he was quoted as saying.

The council is a body dominated by hard-liners in Iran's Islamic regimer who have resisted reformers' drive for years to loosen social and political restrictions in the country — including women's rights.

The June 17 election is a crucial since it means to end of the presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami, who is barred from running for a third term — giving hard-liners an opportunity to retake the post.

The earlier announcement that women would be allowed to run had raised speculation that conservatives were trying to court reformers, ensure a wide turnout in the election to show its legitimacy or to fend of U.S. and European criticism over a lack of democracy in Iran.

The question of whether women can run for president hinges on a long debated question over phrasing in the constitution, which says the president must be elected from among political ''rijal.'' That Arabic word that can be interpreted as ''men'' or simply political personalities regardless of their gender.

For 25 years, the Guardian Council has rejected women as candidates on the basis of the ''male'' interpretation.

Earlier, state-run media reported Elham saying the council's stance had changed. ''The word ''rijal'' doesn't negate gender,'' he was quoted as saying.

''If they possess the necessary qualifications, women can also run for president,'' state-run television quoted Elham as saying.

By ''necessary qualifications,'' Elham apparently meant the requirements listed in Iran's Constitution: Iranian birth and nationality, ''administrative capacity and resourcefulness, a good past record, trustworthiness and piety, convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country.''

This is an interesting turn of events, isn’t it? Whatcha wanna bet they were listening on January 20th and they will allow women to run in the June elections?

Posted by Texas Gal