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Iranians mock Rouhani over explanation for no female ministers

Al-monitor - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's reasoning for not appointing any female ministers to his Cabinet — as he had promised he would in the May presidential election — has prompted a backlash from his supporters.

AUTHOR Al-Monitor Staff

On Aug. 15, the moderate Rouhani defended his proposed list of ministers to members of parliament and tried to persuade them to vote in favor of his Cabinet. "I will tell all the ministers in the 12th [incumbent] government to appoint young people and women for high-level positions," Rouhani said, adding, "I was really eager to at least have three female ministers ... but it didn't happen." He did not explain why it did not happen.

Iranians quickly took to Twitter and other social media outlets to mock the president, launching a Persian hashtag that translates to #ButItDidntHappen to express their disappointment with Rouhani, while reminding him of the promises he made during his electoral campaign.

Manzie, a user who describes herself as a feminist, tweeted, "We weren't supposed to be disappointed with Rouhani so soon, #ButItDidntHappen."

Another Twitter user published a picture of a smiling Rouhani, along with the satirical quote, "I wanted to lift the house arrest [of 2009 opposition leaders] #ButItDidntHappen."

Another Iranian tweeted, "Rouhani has learned his lesson. Every time he makes a promise, he then says#ButItDidntHappen."

During the May presidential election, Rouhani defeated his powerful conservative opponent Ebrahim Raisi by making various promises to the Iranian public, including appointing female ministers and allowing Iranians more social freedoms.

In other news, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif — who appeared before parliament seeking to gain a vote of confidence for his reappointment as foreign minister — once again faced harsh criticism from hard-line members of parliament.

Mohammad Javad Abtahi, a hard-line member of parliament who belongs to the Endurance Front, slammed Zarif during an Aug. 16 parliamentary session. "If I were in the place of Mr. Rouhani," he said, "I would have changed the diplomatic team [of Iran]. ... It would be better if the government chooses another team with another policy."Abtahi indicated that then the United States would become "aware that Mr. Zarif, with his smiles and his strolling" along a river in Geneva with former US Secretary of State John Kerry, is no longer foreign minister and replaced by someone such as Abtahi "who is courageous and violent."

The hard-line members of parliament also criticized Rouhani and Zarif for signing on to the nuclear deal with six world powers, including the United States.

In response to the criticism, Zarif told parliament Aug. 16, "Iran is the only country that ensures its security through its people. ... Iran is not dependent on foreign countries and doesn't get happy about the smiles or frowns of foreign [powers]."

Zarif expressed his hope that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will remain in place as an "honorable document of the Iranian people's resistance." He added, "Some [countries and figures] put their utmost effort into preventing the JCPOA from taking place, and they are attempting to intensify Iran-phobia and Shiite-phobia hand in hand with Zionists."

The nuclear deal "is the achievement of this nation and wasn't achieved by the Foreign Ministry. Do not belittle the people's achievement," Zarif said in reaction to hard-liners' criticisms of the nuclear deal.

Referring to US President Donald Trump's threat to tear up the JCPOA, Zarif said, "The US can't forget its commitments and ignore a deal by violating it; [this] will lead to the isolation of the US."

While Zarif defended his upcoming plans for the Foreign Ministry for his second term, one hard-line member of parliament, Abdullah Sameri, shouted at him and accused him of lying. Other members of parliament covered up Sameri's mouth to stop him from swearing and then led him outside. Sameri said he shouted because the figures presented by Zarif were far from reality.



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Iranian Soccer Stars Call For End To Ban On Women Spectators

Former Bayern Munich player Ali Karimi has added his voice to those calling for Iranian women to be allowed into major sports events. (file photo)RFL/RE - Two prominent Iranian footballers have called for lifting a ban on women attending major men's sports events, adding to pressure from women's rights activists long battling the prohibition.

Ali Karimi, who is widely regarded as one of the best Iranian players of all time, expressed hope on July 10 that "the conditions are set with the help of" President Hassan Rohani and the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) "for women to enter stadiums" as spectators.

"This is the demand of millions upon millions of female fans who'd like to watch football matches and other events up close," Karimi, a former midfielder for Iranian and European clubs who now coaches Naft Tehran, was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying. "This important issue is not impossible, this dream of female sports fans can be achieved through correct planning."

Weeks earlier, Iranian national team captain Masud Shojaei called on Rohani to lift the ban.

Flood Of Passion

"I think it is the dream of many Iranian women who are football fans," Shojaei, who has represented Iran at two World Cups, said in a video clip that was shared widely on social media. "I think if [the ban is lifted] we would have to build a stadium that could hold 200,000 spectators, because we see the flood of passion from our ladies."

"I hope it happens very, very soon," he added.

Both appeals seemed intended to spur Rohani into pushing the country's conservative, religiously dominated leadership into some of the mild reforms that he espoused when he was elected in 2013 and reelected again in May.

Iran's national soccer captain Masud Shojaei (file photo)

Iran's national soccer captain Masud Shojaei (file photo)

Shojaei had reportedly raised the request in a June 14 meeting with Rohani after Iran's side qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The video was reportedly recorded at the venue of the meeting with Rohani.

Rohani campaigned on pledges that included fewer social restrictions, but he has faced opposition from influential hard-liners in Iran's mostly unelected power structure.

In recent years, government officials have issued conflicting statements over whether the ban on women entering stadiums might be lifted, and only a limited number of women -- many of them foreigners -- have occasionally been allowed in as spectators at mass sports events.

Islamic Norms

Authorities claim the stadium ban is enforced to protect women and Islamic norms. They say the atmosphere is inappropriate for women because of revealing athletes' uniforms and the prevalence of crude language.

But women's rights advocates say the ban is simply one of the more blatant examples of gender discrimination in Iranian society, where women are expected to maintain a strict dress code and are discouraged from being seen in public with male nonrelatives, and women's testimony carries less weight than a man's.

Women have occasionally defied the ban and entered stadiums, sometimes dressed as men.

In June 2014, several women were detained when they tried to go to an international volleyball event at Tehran's Azadi stadium.

Prominent Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi documented the debate in his award-winning movie Offside, about female football fans who are detained after attempting to enter a stadium to watch a World Cup qualifying match. The movie was filmed in Iran but banned domestically.

Some of Rohani's supporters have publicly called for the lifting of the ban.

"Entering stadiums is an Iranian woman's right," said a hand-written sign at a May campaign event in Tehran.

Golnaz Esfandiari

Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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