On February 26 were held the double Iranian elections: for the Parliament and for the Assembly of Experts. International has press interpreted the results as a women’s victory and a triumph of President Rohani’s reformists. Is the situation really that linear? And else, what should Iranian women expenct from this new course?
It is true that in the Parliament was presented the list known as the “Coalition of Reformists” or “List of Hope”, which has triumphed with thirty candidates in Tehran, eight of whom are women, an expression of a broader political context. The same trend of growth of women’s presence has been registered all over the country, accompanied by advertising campaigns that showcased voting women with videos staring young emancipated women supporters of the outgoing government.
Besides, Rohani had thundered: “women’s presence at the elections is important for public opinion worldwide”; while Ayatollah Khamenei had echoed Rohani’s words, “absolving” women who were going to partake in the elections without asking their husband’s permission, “you do not need to have your spouse’s consent, anyone can participate.”
Nonetheless, there are still many doubts about this story that sounds like a setup rather than truth; Massoumeh Toreh, scholar of Iranian democratization process at the London School of Economics says that “despite all appearances, women’s instances will be forgotten the day after elections. They play a merely cosmetic role; it is normal for a male society to want to promote itself as progressive before elections”.
Parvaneh Salahshoor, one of the candidates of the moderate front, reminds us that women counted very little during the previous legislature: only eight out of 290 parliamentary seats were occupied by women, one of the lowest numbers in the world, too low to envisage any possibility of a true impact on government policy. Another influential voice in the previous Rohani government, Shahindokht Molaverdi, declares: “Iran has done enormous progress, but natural differences between men and women have resulted in a bumpy and discontinuous empowerment process.”
Without doubt, the extreme fringe of Islam interpreted the “natural differences” mentioned by Molaverdi in a restrictive key.
Desire to read election results as a clear sign of women empowerment reveals the need of the West – including Europe -, to distinguish good from evil, enemies from friends, and the good from the bad. Yet, Iran’s complex political landscape does not lend itself to a stereotyped reading, it is a slap in the face of our presumptuous tendency to assimilate cultures that are very different to ours. Thigs are much more complicated.
Only time will be able to show what will happen. It will take months also to determine who has really won the elections: there will be a run-off election in late April, then Iran will have to wait for the political forces to settle in Majlis and for the actual electoral equilibria to become clear.
After all, the Iraqi people is a cases that should teach us not to sacrifice the complexity of reality in the name of a hasty and simplifying logic: without a lucid and documented analysis no fruitful solutions can be achieved. If our hope is really that Iranian women can enjoy certain rights, we cannot exempt ourselves from interpreting the whole scenario with humbleness and respect for diversity.