Shahindokht Molaverdi, former Iranian Deputy President for Iran for Women’s Affairs. (IRNA)

July 14, 2020

A news website in Iran reported Monday that an indictment has been issued for the former Deputy President for Iran for Women’s Affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi.

Hours later, Ms. Molaverdi issued an open letter to the head of Iran’s Judiciary demanding to know how the media is leaking news about her indictment while she has not been informed.

On Monday, July 13, the Rah-e Dana website disclosed that Ms. Molaverdi was charged with “propaganda against the regime”, “encouraging corruption and prostitution” and “providing classified information and documents to disrupt national security.”

According to the site, Molaverdi’s plaintiffs are “the country’s intelligence, security and law enforcement bodies.”

In her letter Mollaverdi protested that a website close “to a military outfit” can be privy to a legal case, while the accused is totally in the dark. She did not say which military outfit she was pointing at but she could have been referring to the Revolutionary Guard’s Intelligence Organization.

It is not clear how these charges can be proven against an academic and a defender of women’s rights. But it is common in Iran to bring serious charges against those who demand reform and change and convict them in closed-door trials without due process of law.

Molaverdi, 54, was the Deputy for Women and Family Affairs in President Hassan Rouhani’s first administration (2013-2017).

In Rouhani’s second term, she was appointed Assistant to the President for Civil Rights Affairs, but resigned in November 2018, following the implementation of a law banning retirees’ employment in government posts.

Iranian hardliners have repeatedly bombarded Molaverdi with a barrage of criticism for her attempts to promote women’s rights in the clergy-dominated country.

As recently as last May, the ultraconservative allies of The Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei launched a campaign against Molaverdi for “promoting homosexuality” by posting the U.N. International Day of Families poster on social media, depicting various forms of families, including homosexual families.

Under heavy pressure from the hardliners, Molaverdi was forced to remove the controversial post and even issued an “apology” for “inadvertently republishing a post”.

A vociferous defender of women’s rights within Islamic laws, Molaverdi, had earlier admitted that President Rouhani, who campaigned as a moderate, failed to address significant problems confronting Iranian women.

While referring to various hurdles blocking the governments’ plans, including harsh opposition from the conservatives and other close allies of Khamenei, Molaverdi acknowledged that, during the past six years Rouhani’s administration failed to present even one single bill to parliament (Majles) concerning women’s rights.

Failing to table bills on women’s rights was our major shortcoming, Molaverdi lamented in early February 2019, adding, “When I was appointed as the Deputy President for Women and Family Affairs (October 2013), I thought that I would bombard Majles with a barrage of bills related to women’s rights. However, that never happened.”

In her first interview after retirement, Molaverdi told the government’s official news agency (IRNA) that any step toward improving women’s public stature in Iran was immediately challenged by the conservatives and soon abandoned.

“Our efforts to grant Iranian women their absolute rights were doomed from the very beginning, since the conservatives were, and are, very sensitive toward such issues,” Molaverdi bitterly complained, reminding, “Our opposition to issues such as child marriage and banning women from entering volleyball arenas, were silenced by the conservatives.”

Presenting a list of her failures, including efforts to save women from home violence and banning stepfathers from marrying their adopted daughters, Molaverdi reiterated that all such attempts were a non-starter and doomed to fail from the time of their inception.

Women have limited rights, according to Iran’s Islamic constitution. All women have legal custodians, which is either their husband, father, or another male member of the family. They can hardly complain against the decisions or actions of their custodians.

RFE-RL

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