Many people in the world have been waiting for the departure of extremist Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. From the sounds of his likely replacement, Saeed Jalili, some may look back with longing. Jalili is a former Revolutionary Guard who continues the extremist Islamic principles of governance of his predecessor. This week, he promised to “defend the rights of women as mothers” as opposed to what he referred to as “economic context” of feminists and the West. Men will continue of course to be defined as men as opposed to fathers.
What is astonishing is that this speech was met by rapturous applause by the female audience. Jalili also ridiculed the West’s emphasis on the individual.
What is unintelligible about Iranian politics is how they define rights viewed as self-evidently fundamental in the West as self-evidently evil under Islam. Jalili told the audience “The West says society should work to its full potential, and since women constitute half of the population, their work power cannot be ignored and should be included in the economic cycle.” Jalili turns that rather obvious point on its head and denounces it as belittling to women to give them an equal position in the workplace: “Making use of women as an object and lowering her greatness to the level of a workforce and economic tool is very different from how they are viewed in Islam.” Since he defines women in terms of birthing and raising children, he declared “We are backers of women’s rights, especially in comparison to the West.” This drew even greater applause by the female Muslim audience.
With the crackdown on other religions as well as dissidents, this election holds little promise for reformers in Iran.