Iranian politician Nina Siakhali Moradi epitomized the promise of more civil rights for the country’s women when she won her bid as an alternate to the Qazvin City Council earlier this summer. But now she’s had her election overturned by religious conservatives, who have basically barred her from office for being too hot.
“We don’t want a catwalk model on the council,” balked an unnamed senior official in Qazvin, according to a report in the Times of London.
But the official reason, as explained to the news agency IranWire by Seyed Reza Hossaini, Qazvin’s representative in Parliament and a review board member, was, “Her votes have been nullified due to her disqualification, as the review board did not approve her credentials. We have told her the reason why she has been disqualified.”
Still, Iran’s judiciary and intelligence services had originally granted approval (as is the system) to Moradi’s candidacy in Qazvin, the ancient capital of the Persian empire, about 100 miles from Tehran. The 27-year-old architecture grad student ran under the slogan “Young ideas for a young future” and was committed to fighting for improved rights for both women and youth.
During her campaign, conservative groups complained about Moradi’s “vulgar and anti-religious posters,” the Times reported, adding that the reason given for her disqualification was that she wasn’t “observing the Islamic norms.”
Moradi’s run was most likely approved in the first place because “they probably didn’t think she had any chance,” a spokesperson from the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran told Yahoo! Shine. Then, when she gained momentum because of her popularity with young adults, receiving 10,000 votes, the officials were taken off-guard, leaning on the vague “Islamic code of dignity” as a way to ban her from office.
“They don’t like the fact that she doesn’t belong to any political party, because they don’t welcome an independent voice,” the spokesperson (speaking on behalf of the campaign’s executive director, Hadi Ghaemi) added. “The story has gone viral, and there’s been a lot of noise inside the country, and it’s likely that they’ll reverse the decision due to public pressure and embarrassment.”
The campaign, a nonprofit organization that aims to amplify Iranian human-rights struggles on an international stage, has posted news of Moradi’s ouster on its Facebook page, eliciting an outcry from readers.
“It’s because of their sick mentality that they have a problem with a beautiful creature of God,” one commenter posted in Farsi (as translated for Yahoo! Shine by the campaign). Another mused that her displacement “is definitely about her not using a chador,” referring to the traditional head-to-toe black robe traditionally worn by women, while yet another fired off, “These anti-beauty people just want everyone to be ugly and dirty, like themselves.”
A female politician chastised by opponents because of her looks? That sounds familiar. Hilary Clinton has been called everything from “shrill” to a “b—-”; when she ran for president, nutcrackers were made with her likeness, and a rally heckler once yelled out, “Iron my shirt!” In Australia, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was accused of being “deliberately barren” and therefore “wooden” by male colleagues. French housing minister Cécile Duflot was forced to ignore whistles and catcalls while speaking before the national assembly.
In Iran, Moradi spoke out about the decision to unseat her, telling local media, “Almost 10,000 people voted for me, and based on that I should be the first alternate member of the City Council,” according to the Independent.
Mohammed Olaiyehfard, a legal expert in Qazvin, told the Independent of London that the contradiction from officials was a problem. “If someone breaks the law during the election, the review board and election committee can review the individual’s actions. But when the results have been announced, they cannot nullify the results. For this reason, it is illegal for the election review board to disqualify someone who had initially been qualified to run and then later won the election. It seems that this is a pretext in order to create an obstacle in order for this individual to not be able to join the Qazvin City Council.”
The story is blowing up not long after Iran’s new president, Hassan Rowhani, pledged to fight for women’s civil rights.
“Women work but don’t enjoy equal rights,” he had said in a pre-election debate. “I will form a women’s affairs ministry to return their trampled rights to them.”