Iran’s Supreme Leader has told an all female audience “you can play an important role in the elections” with voter turnout expected to be as low as 15 percent.
In a direct appeal for the upcoming March elections, Ali Khamenei said, “In the home, you play the most important role. Mothers can play a role in educating their children and spouses about the importance of being involved in the electoral process.”
Khamenei’s hardliner supporters have used various methods to prevent other regime factions from competing in parliamentary and presidential elections since 2020.
The same tactic is being used for the March 1 legislative elections, and voters have lost interest in what they see as Islamic Republic’s electoral machinations. Many do not see if going to the ballot box would make any difference to their futures.
Khamenei also stated that women have a greater capacity for details and a “better ability to recognize people and strategies … The women are better able to identify the most qualified candidates than the men.”
In what seemed like a premeditated bid to engage a disenfranchised female population amidst the Women, Life, Freedom uprising as elections approach, the Iranian dictator added that, “A woman may hold any type of position, including managerial, governmental, and parliamentary positions. Meritocracy is the criterion for selection”.
However, cementing what he sees as women’s main function, he added, “There is, however, a crucial requirement that women won’t be ‘deprived’ of that important and fundamental ‘feminine task’, i.e. housekeeping and childbearing … Fortunately, there are some men who are willing to ‘assist women’, with housekeeping.”
While defining “housekeeping” as a “woman’s job” and saying some men “happily help women with that”, he also said, “We should not say housekeeping is women’s job.”
The inconsistencies present in just a few minutes of Khameni’s speech may stem from his attempt to use modern concepts of equality to superficially appeal to women, his sole audience at Hosseiniyeh, after the 2022 women-led uprising sparked by the death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini.
His emphasis on meritocracy comes at a time when, according to the Global Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap Report, Iran ranks 143rd out of 146 countries in terms of gender equality.
“Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan are at the bottom of both the regional and global ranking tables,” wrote the report.
Also in the Women’s Workplace Equality Index, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Iran is among the 5 bottom-ranked countries regarding women’s workforce equality, alongside Sudan, Qatar, Syria and Yemen.
After praising women’s progress in a variety of scientific and artistic fields, he emphasized the importance of revolution and Islamic values as decisive factors. In praise of the hijab, he said: “Hijab doesn’t mean discrimination and exclusion, but rather safety.”
In the meantime, the new division of the regime that enforces the hijab is violating the privacy of citizens by searching their personal belongings and imposing surveillance on them to take away their freedom of choice in how they dress.
Only in Iran and neighboring Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is wearing a hijab for women still mandatory.
The fact that these hijab enforcers are in plain clothes without permits or documents increases the possibility of criminals exploiting the situation. The harsh behavior of these agents has led to nationwide protests last year that lasted for months.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died in the custody of the morality police last September sparking the biggest uprising in recent history. A similar incident occurred this year with Armita Geravand, a 16-year-old student who was severely injured by Tehran’s hijab police. She died while in hospital in October.