The public in the U.S. is going gaga over Michelle Obama, who many see as a role model for the new type of strong, American woman. Over in Iran, something similar is going on.
I think it’s an equally compelling story.
This woman’s name is Zahra Rahnavard, and she is being hailed by many as “Iran’s Michelle Obama.”
Rahnavard is the wife of presidential hopeful Mir Hossein Mousavi, a challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for Iran’s June 12 elections. With her support for women’s rights and other reforms, she is helping her husband capture the youth vote.
“Rahnavard is reviving hopes that women will get part of their social rights … Women’s rights and freedoms went backward during Ahmadinejad’s four years in office. We hope a reformist win will create new hopes for greater freedoms for women,” said a supporter, Sima Honarvar, in an Associated Press article.
Youth voters were vital to former President Mohammad Khatami’s reform movement from 1997 to 2005. They will also be critical to Mousavi’s campaign.
In a country that has the image of oppressing women, Rahnavard is redefining the role that women play in politics.
Although there have been female Iranian politicians (notably, Masoumeh Ebtekar, a vice president in Khatami’s government), Rahnavard is the first spouse to have such a big role in a husband’s campaign, according to the Associated Press. In comparison, Khatami’s wife and Ahmadinejad’s wife have both had low profiles.
Rahnavard speaks before her husband at almost every campaign rally. She attracts young people with her message of gender equality and reform.
“Why was not a single woman presidential candidate approved? Why are there no women Cabinet ministers? Why are housewives not covered by insurance?” she asked at a recent rally, according to the Associated Press article.
She also has a background that even conservatives have to grudgingly respect.
Rahnavard was a part of the 1970s movement around Islamist philosopher Ali Shariati, who was a big influence on many leaders of the revolution. Rahnavard was better known in Tehran political circles than her husband in the years following the overthrow of the U.S.-backed shah.
This background lends weight to her claims that the conservatives in Iranian government don’t represent the spirit of the Islamic Revolution.
She later became a sculptor and painter after conservatives dismissed her from her position as dean of Al-Zahra University in Tehran in 2006.
At a rally on Tuesday at Tabriz University, she called men and women like “two wings,” the Associated Press reported.
“A bird can’t fly with one wing or with a broken wing,” she said.
Source: Candidate’s wife a new political star in Iran, Associated Press