Friday, May 29, 2009

Reformist Azeri Couple Challenge Iran's Amadinejad in Upcoming June Elections

Reform candidate's wife new political star in Iran
TABRIZ, Iran (AP) — Presidential hopeful Mir Hossein Mousavi waited in the wings as his wife warmed up the crowd. Zahra Rahnavard quickly had them roaring in approval — and her husband beaming — as she ticked off her demands for women's rights and other reforms.

"We love you, Rahnavard!" shouted the Tabriz University students, as Mousavi clapped.

While the political power couple is a common fixture in the West, Rahnavard is rewriting the role of political spouse in conservative Iran — and could give a boost to her husband's candidacy in the June 12 presidential election.

With her sharp wit and fluid oratory, Rahnavard has fast become a political draw on her own, as well as an important asset to her husband's campaign as the main pro-reform challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Masoud Heidari, a rights activist, said the country "needs to respond to accumulated demands from women and Rahnavard is playing a deservedly good role in that direction."

She brings a rare mix: the liberal cry to fire up reformers, paired with the revolutionary credentials that bring grudging respect from hard-liners.

Even her outfit gives a nod in both directions — an ultraconservative head-to-toe black chador, with a colorful head scarf peeking out and a bag made by traditional village weavers.


"Rahnavard is reviving hopes that women will get part of their social rights ... Women's rights and freedoms went backward during Ahmadinejad's four years in office. We hope a reformist win will create new hopes for greater freedoms for women," said a supporter, Sima Honarvar.

Rahnavard is not the first high-profile woman in Iranian affairs. Human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and Masoumeh Ebtekar was a vice president in Khatami's government.

But Rahnavard is the first spouse to take a major campaign role — and promise to keep her public voice if her husband becomes president. By comparison, Khatami's wife was only rarely in the public eye and almost nothing is officially known about Ahmadinejad's wife.

In almost every campaign rally, Rahnavard speaks before her husband.

In Tabriz, 300 miles northwest of Tehran, she questioned why students are imprisoned for expressing their opinions and why liberal-minded professors are forcefully retired.

"It was expected that our universities would be independent. But they are not. Why are students jailed for speaking their minds?" she asked, prompting chants of "political prisoners must be released."

Iran's third-largest city, Tabriz is populated mostly by Iran's Azeri minority. It is Mousavi's hometown, and both he and his wife began their campaign appearance by making a few remarks in the local Azeri-Turkish language before switching to Farsi. [...]

In June of 2006, a cartoon in a state run newspaper sparked massive protests, because it depicted the Azeri (who make up about 25% of Iran's population) as cockroaches. So it's interesting to see a major opposition candidate from the Azeri community, who is popular and has revolutionary credentials. AND a feminist wife, who was a college dean until she was dismissed from that position by Iran's conservatives.

She has quite a bit to say about free speech and women's rights in Iran, which have actually suffered setbacks in recent years. See the rest of the article for more details about the reforms she and her husband are pushing for.

Prior elections in Iran seemed to be rigged, with ballot stuffing, districts reporting 800% voter turn out. However, there is a lot of pressure on with this election, and hopes are high. The economy is in bad shape, unemployment is high, and there are many young people with no job prospects.

If Amadinejad, with his nutty apocalyptic beliefs is defeated, I think it could only be a good thing. Many Iranians who are leary of the controversial fringe Muslim sect he belongs to, would like to see him out of power.

Related Links:

Is it time for regime change in Iran yet?

Iran, under the surface... is it crumbling?

Hangings in Iran increase, to silence dissent

Iran's pressing needs and Iraq's vulnerability.

Purging Western Influences from Islamic minds

Iranian Fashion Police Publicly Bludgeon Women

Amadinejad talks crazy on Iranian TV, with help from a "Death to Amercia" chorus

Amadinejad supports Pop Islam, Iranian nationalism, to serve the goal of Martydom


Winston said...

This guy is an Islamist-Stalinist. He's a doofus. Why would you buy Iranian regime's propaganda?

Chas said...

Well they certainly aren't going to let a genuine liberal get elected. So what is left? The lesser of two evils... maybe.

As for propaganda... I'm not so sure the Iranian regime even wants Mousavi in. Do you have some inside information on that? If not, then we are left with speculation.