Iran's Rouhani irks reformists by picking all-male Cabinet

TEHERAN • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed two female vice-presidents yesterday, but continued to take flak from reformists for not nominating women ministers to his Cabinet.

The appointments came a day after the moderate President announced his all-male list of ministers to Parliament, seen as a betrayal by reformists who backed his re-election campaign in May.

"It is incredible and shocking that the President has ignored the demands of women in nominating his government," Ms Parvaneh Salahshouri, head of a parliamentary women's group, told lawmakers.

A letter calling for female ministers to be appointed was signed by 157 of the 290 MPs. There was small comfort in the appointment of two women as vice-presidents, who do not require parliamentary approval.

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Ms Massoumeh Ebtekar, known internationally for her role as spokesman during the 1980 United States embassy hostage crisis, was named as vice-president in charge of women's affairs, having previously run the environment brief in Mr Rouhani's office.

Ms Laya Joneydi was appointed as vice-president for legal affairs, while another woman, Ms Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, was named as a special adviser for citizens' rights.

Mr Rouhani, a moderate cleric who had three female vice-presidents during his previous term, has several more deputy positions to fill and it is unclear if any would go to women.

The head of the newly formed Reformist Women's Party, Ms Zahra Shojaei, said she was not surprised by the lack of female ministers given the continued opposition of many lawmakers and powerful religious figures behind the scenes.

A large independent faction of MPs "are still not in favour of female ministers", said Ms Shojaei. But she said female vice-presidents actually have more power than ministers and have already broken the taboo on putting women in positions of authority.

"We have gone past the symbolic stage. Female ministers are important but it's not our only demand. Even if Rouhani had appointed several women ministers, it would not have solved women's issues," she said.

Mr Adnan Tabatabai, chief executive of the Centre for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient, a think-tank based in Bonn, Germany, said: "The only reasonable explanation for his choices is that he tried to be very uncontroversial to avoid increased tensions so his Cabinet can do some work. He can live with pressure coming from female activists."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'Iran's Rouhani irks reformists by picking all-male Cabinet'. Print Edition | Subscribe