Iranian Women to Shun Parliamentary Election
February 15, 2004
Iranian women appear determined to stay away from the country's parliamentary elections this Friday, amid frustration with the failure of the reform movement they played a key role in launching.
Many Iranian woman interviewed here feel helpless to reverse what they consider a disastrous social and economic situation in the Islamic republic, and fret that things can only get worse.
Others say that conditions may have to deteriorate until there is an explosive backlash before progress can be made in the country.
One 22-year-old student, who refused to be named, said she would not vote in the February 20 legislative polls because the reformists were not adequately represented after the massive blacklisting of their candidates by conservatives.
"Although the reformists did not change anything during their time in the government and parliament, it was because they couldn't do anything," she said.
The young woman, who spoke in front of Tehran University, was sporting a red coat and white headscarf, colors forbidden to women before the reformists took over the government.
Although considering herself apolitical, she still reserved the right to express herself. "I hope that things will get worse and worse until they explode."
Olduz, a 25-year-old student, was also downbeat. "I prefer not to think about the future of my country," she said. "I have no hope."
A conservative rout of the reformists in Friday's vote could only worsen the current situation, said the budding artist, made up and wearing a long blouse and tight-fitting pink jacket.
Asked if a boycott of the vote was the solution, Olduz said, "Maybe not. But the (conservative) officials will know that the young are not with them."
She said she had once gone to the ballot box to vote for reformist President Muhammad Khatami but he ended up disappointing her. "There is no real hero around," she shrugged.
Most young Iranians think of only one thing, getting out and finding decent jobs abroad, she said.
Women represent slightly more than half of Iran's 66 million people and turned out massively in the past to support reformist candidates since Khatami's first election in 1997.
The president, a mild mannered and good looking cleric, drew women's attention with his love of culture and promise of "Islamic democracy." He even appointed Islamic Iran's first female vice president.
But the outlook for women has become progressively bleaker.
An 18-year-old psychology student, who wore the classic chador black robe and spoke on condition of anonymity, also said she does not plan to vote Friday.
"The situation is not going to change in Iran whether it is the conservatives or reformists who win," she said.
She put little stock in the fact that the conservatives were also fielding women candidates in the election.
"Sixty to 70 percent of the members of parliament were reformists and they could not do anything. Each time they got to the point of changing something, the Guardians Council imposed a veto," she said, referring to the hardline political watchdog also behind the mass barring of candidates.
"So what can one or two candidates do, whether they be men or women?"
Several older women refused to speak about the political situation. But Roya, 46, a retired schoolteacher, also planned to sit out the vote.
"I am not satisfied either with the candidates, nor the current members of parliament nor the government nor the regime," she said.
The main problems facing the country were economic, social and administrative, she said, adding that she was eligible for her pension but was told that the administration had no money left for it.
"Things can't be worse," Roya said.
One wife was making a statement not only for herself, but for her husband, the 30-year-man said. She has no plans to vote Friday and has hidden his voting card so he can't turn out either. http://www.afp.com/english/home/
Conservatives Switch Positions on US Relations, Press Law, Women's Dress
Campaigning to increase voter turnout in the February 20 elections, members of the leading right wing coalition Abadgaran retracted former hard-line positions on Islamic dress code for women, relations with the US, ban on satellite TV viewing and the press law. We shall reform the press law, if necessary, and rules on women's dress code, viewing foreign satellite TV broadcasts and relations with the US are all subject to change, due to the conditions of the time, Tehran conservative MP Gholamali Haddad-Adel, a relative of the Supreme Leader and head of the Majles conservative block, said today in a campaign speech. The sources of investments are not important for us, since any investment can be in the national interest, conservative politician Ahmad Tavakoli, former labor minister and a former presidential candidate, who is a major figure in the newly formed right-wing coalition Abadgaran, said, reversing the Guardians Council's position on foreign investment as a tool of foreign domination. (Amir Armin) http://www.radiofarda.com/transcripts/topstory/2004/02/20040214_1430_0131_0403_EN.asp