In what could be taken as a sign of positive evolutionary change in Iranian politics, women will outnumber clerics in the country’s new parliament for the very first time.
As per the official voting results of April 29’s run-off elections announced, 17 women will become lawmakers, accounting for 6% of the total of 290 MPs. Meanwhile, only 16 clerics were voted in, an all-time low number.
It is a huge change to come about in a country like Iran where a woman, in this day and age, can still not leave the country without her husband's permission and where a woman's testimony as a witness is worth half that of a man.
However, many are skeptical if the change is real or merely cosmetic.
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Ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the ultimate authority in Iran, on both domestic and foreign policies, rests with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Despite the fact that moderates and reformists won a working majority this year, there’s little hope of real change as long as Khamenei remains the de facto leader.
The concerns were highlighted by Shirin Ebadi, a former Iranian judge and winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote human rights.
"As long as Khamenei is alive the situation is going to remain the same and there will be no changes," she told IBTimes UK, before the run-off election’s results came out.
"The main representative of the reformist movement, Mohammad Khatami was president for eight years,” Ebdai added. “During his first term the reformists also held a majority of seats in parliament so both the legislative and executive branches were held by reformists. And what happened? Nothing. None of the policies were actually materialized.”
Her argument holds truth considering what has happened during current President Hassan Rouhani’s rule so far.
Even though the moderate cleric promised more rights for women when he was elected in 2013, little to no change has come to the Islamic republic in that respect.
Case in point: After nearly three years in office, Rouhani couldn’t even relax discriminatory laws pertaining to women’s clothing in public. That’s primarily because the real power to make such changes resides with Khamenei and his followers of religious hardliners.
Now, this doesn’t go to prove that change has not come at all. As stated above, in a country where a woman’s worth is half that of a man — according to laws made by religious clerics — it is indeed a big achievement for women to outnumber religious clerics in parliament.
That said, real change is yet to come to Iran.