Iran's only female mayor sweeps up small town
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
SAVEH, Iran: Mehri Roustaie Gherailou is unlike any other mayor in Iran - she's a woman.
The 41-year-old manager of the small city of Saveh, situated around 100 kilometers southwest of Tehran, is only the second woman to run a town in the 25-year-old history of the Islamic Republic, and at present the only female in such a job.
And she has no hesitation in pointing out her difficulties swimming against the tide in a male-dominated society.
"Men cannot give up power to women that easily," she says in her office in Saveh, once famed for its pomegranates but now a busy industrial center and trading crossroads between six provinces.
Women, she said, are generally seen as less tolerant of laziness and corruption, something that makes them "very hard to accept."
When the city council appointed her mayor in May - a political upset in the town - Gherailou said she started her job of cleaning up the drab town of 140,000 people by sweeping a broom through her new office.
"On my first day in the office, I made the necessary changes in the municipality that none of the previous mayors had done," said Gherailou, a calm but resolute woman who gives the impression of being well on top of her job.
"I immediately replaced two deputies and some directors who were no longer trusted by people. I also started to deal with cases that have been stuck in the bureaucracy for up to five years," she said.
She said the council backed her simply because she dared to apply for the job, which she admitted was a "teenage dream" of hers. In winning the post, she beat a male opponent backed by the town's deputy to the national parliament.
But the mayor has her work cut out, even if she has been earning points for heading with her team out onto Saveh's streets to meet and talk more with constituents.
The town has in recent years been flooded with some 40,000 migrant workers looking for work at its industrial, mining and agricultural facilities. There is an unmanaged labor structure, sloppy construction and overstretched public services.
The mayor also has a few ambitious projects up her sleeve: the "Ladies' Garden," a women-only cultural and sports complex which is the fourth of its kind nationwide; low-cost housing; a town computer center and new cultural offices.
For whatever reasons, she admits some people in the small city of Saveh are upset.
"Some people have tried to set fire to one of the projects under construction. I get discouraging messages from people hoping that, in the end, I will give up," she explains.
A family woman who was the eldest of eight children, she says her father always asked her opinion. She ended up completing her education with a masters degree in management - one of the thousands of women who currently outnumber and outperform their male counterparts at universities in the Islamic Republic.
And now her husband, an agricultural engineer, gives his support to her political career, having told her "you can!" when she first showed an interest in becoming mayor.
Gherailou, who is clad in the black chador, shies away from defining herself as a feminist. Instead, she prefers to point out what she does not like: male-chauvinism.
And women, she says, could also do much more to advance their position in society.
"I do not mind about what gender my staff are. I used to be a teacher, a member of the town's Women's Committee, an adviser to the governor, a member of the city council since its establishment in 1999. So I believe women are as guilty as men for not getting decent positions in society."
Iranian strategist: US elections' results not to effect Iran-US relations
Head of Middle East Strategic Studies Center (MESSC) Dr. Mahmoud Sari'olqalam said in Tehran on Monday, "The victory of the current Republican White House team, or the democrats, led by John H. Kerry, will leave no effect in the quality of Iran-US relations," IRNA reported.
Speaking to the MESSC scientific staff, Dr. Sari'olqalam added, "The contents, and involved parameters in Iran-US relations would remain unchanged following the probable victory of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, compared to George Bush Jr.'s era."
Professor of Martyr Beheshti University's Faculty of Laws and Political Studies, referring to the macro-policies of both major US political parties, added, "The Republicans' main economic objective is promoting open market economy at global level, while the Democrats major economic ideal is boosting social justice, and that is the axis of their presidential campaign currently, but they are both quite concerned about Iran case, and our nuclear plans."
He made the conclusion, "Therefore, the reaction of either the Republicans, or the Democrats towards Iran and its nuclear plans depend directly on the outcome of the two upcoming IAEA Board of Governors' meetings on Iran."
Referring to the former US National Security Advisor during former US president Jimmy Carter's tenure, Zibignew Brezebsky`s recent remarks, who has said, "Iran is the most stable country in the Middle East region currently," he said, "New baseless US accusations against Iran, on passage of some of the September 11th terrorist attacks' agents through Iran's soil, as well as other baseless US propagation against Iran, are all a part of Republicans' presidential campaign."
Sari'olqalam emphasized, "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon`s meeting with the Democrats' candidate, too, can be evaluated as lost hopes of the Republicans for gaining the American Jews' votes for President George Walker Bush's reelection."
He concluded, "Traditionally, the US presidents who are reelected, show less support for Israel and its demands in the Middle East region."
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup gave Kerry a 50 to 47 percent lead over Bush among registered voters.
Kerry led 49 to 45 percent among registered voters last month.
"First of all, it doesn't mean anything, because you don`t know who the likely voters are," Kerry told CNN. "We're registering people. There are countless numbers of new people coming into the system."
In an effort to snatch new supporters, Kerry and his vice presidential running mate, North Carolina Senator John Edwards, are on a two-week tour of about 20 key states that could tilt Republican or Democrat in the election.
The pair is making three to four campaign stops a day in its boat, bus and train ride across the country.
Iran: U.S. Vows Tough Stance On Tehran, But Will Europe Follow?
By Jeffrey Donovan
The Bush administration is warning that Iran will come under increasing pressure and be internationally isolated if it refuses to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on its nuclear program. U.S. President George W. Bush says he hopes to get the support of France, Britain, and Germany for a tough stance on Iran. But analysts say the European trio, wary of confrontation, might not be prepared to end their bid to engage Iran on programs Washington says are meant to build nuclear weapons.
Prague, 3 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- In perhaps the strongest signal yet of Washington's emerging policy on Iran, Bush administration officials say Tehran must be "confronted" and "isolated" over its nuclear activities -- and not "engaged."
Bush and White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice made it clear on 2 August that Washington intends to intensify international pressure on Tehran for failing to cooperate fully with the IAEA -- the nuclear watchdog agency of the United Nations.
But whether European nations engaged in negotiations with Iran are prepared to go along with that hard line remains unclear, even after Tehran announced this week it would not honor a pledge it made with them to suspend some nuclear-related activities."The only thing the Americans are putting on the table are further pressure, isolation, and sanctions." -- Steven Everts, London's European Center for Reform
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Bush said the United States and the European Union's "big three" members are working together to ensure there is, quote, "full disclosure, full transparency of [Iran's] nuclear weapons programs."
"We are paying very close attention to Iran, and we have [been paying attention] ever since I've been in office here," Bush said. "We are working with our friends to keep the pressure on the mullahs to listen to the demands of the free world."
Later, in an interview on Fox television network, Rice intensified the U.S. rhetoric, saying the regime in Iran "has to be isolated in its bad behavior, not 'engaged.'"
She added that Washington is working with the Europeans on what she called "a very tough set of resolutions" demanding Iranian compliance on the nuclear issue.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently warned Iran that its case is likely to be referred to the UN Security Council for failing to meet IAEA commitments. A Security Council resolution could lead to sanctions on Iran.
But asked whether France would go along with U.S. plans to increase pressure on Iran, Rice said Washington will "just have to keep working with the French and the British and the Germans to make certain" that they follow the American position.
Whether they will is far from clear.
Analyst Steven Everts of London's European Center for Reform says there is growing frustration in Europe over Iran's failure to live up to vows that it has made on its nuclear activities. But Everts says Europe is unlikely to accept purely negative sanctions against Iran, noting that decades of similar sanctions have sparked n-o change in countries like Cuba.
"The only thing the Americans are putting on the table are further pressure, isolation, and sanctions -- and possibly more down the road," Everts said. "Europeans say Iran's a complex place; different people want different things. It should be possible to construct some form of positive incentives as well, whereby you say to the Iranians: 'If you accept denuclearization and the verification of denuclearization, here's what you can get in return, also from the United States.'"
A study released in July by the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York policy institute, also urged the United States to offer more incentives and fewer punishments as it seeks to effect change in Iran.
But the tough talk from Washington on 2 August appeared to reject the recommendations of that study, which also called for more engagement with Iran.
The Bush administration's warnings came after Iran announced that it had resumed building nuclear centrifuges, which the United States says are intended to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told a news conference in Tehran on 31 July that Iran would respect a pledge -- made in October to Britain, France, and Germany -- to suspend all uranium-enrichment-related activities.
But he added that a separate deal on halting centrifuge-building would not be respected: "[Based on our agreements in October], we have accepted [suspending] uranium enrichment and we are continuing that uranium-enrichment suspension based on our definition -- meaning that we have not restarted enrichment. But we are not committed to our agreement in Brussels in February on halting building centrifuge parts, because the three big European countries have failed to meet their commitments toward us. We said we could resume making centrifuges. As previously announced, we have started building centrifuge parts at our factory after we took the decision."
Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which signatory countries vow to refrain from acquiring atomic weapons and can be punished by Security Council action for violations.
The oil-rich Persian Gulf state denies any interest in nuclear weapons, saying it needs enriched uranium for nuclear power stations to meet increasing domestic demand for electricity.