۱۳۹۲ مهر ۵, جمعه

One phone conversation more than 30 years!

The White House released this photo of President Obama speaking to President Rouhani of Iran.

US President Barack Obama has spoken by phone to Iran's Hassan Rouhani - the first such top-level conversation in more than 30 years.
Mr Obama spoke of a "unique opportunity" to make progress with Iran's new leadership, amid a flurry of diplomacy over its nuclear programme.
Earlier, Mr Rouhani said Iran was keen to reach a deal soon.
He also asserted that Iran did not seek a nuclear bomb, as Western powers have long suspected.
Describing meetings at the UN this week as a "first step", he said he believed the nuclear issue could be settled "within the not too distant future".
Mr Rouhani said initial discussions had taken place in an environment that was "quite different" from the past.
'Full backing'
The call with Mr Obama was made just before Mr Rouhani left New York, where he has been attending the annual summit of the UN General Assembly, Iranian news agency Irna said.
White House officials described the 15 minute conversation - apparently initiated by Mr Rouhani - as cordial, the BBC's Bridget Kendall reports from New York.
Mr Obama raised concerns about American prisoners in Iran, but the bulk of the call was about efforts to reach a solution on the nuclear issue, she says.
Afterwards, Mr Obama said: "While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution."
Mr Rouhani, who is regarded as a moderate and was elected in June, has said he wants to reach a deal over the nuclear issue in three to six months.
He says he is fully empowered by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to negotiate.
On Friday, he told a press conference at the UN: "Whatever result we achieve through negotiations my government will have the full backing of all the main branches of power in Iran as well as the support of the people of Iran."
And he said he wanted a deal "within a very short period of time".
'Bomb is dangerous' Earlier the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had held "very constructive" talks with Iran in Vienna.
IAEA Deputy Director-General Herman Nackaerts did not give details of Friday's talks, but said the two parties would meet again on 28 October.
"We will start substantial discussions on the way forward to resolving all outstanding issues," Mr Nackaerts said.
Reza Najafi, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, was quoted as saying that the aim was to reach an agreement "as soon as possible" and also spoke of a "constructive discussion".

On Thursday US Secretary of State John Kerry held a rare meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Mr Kerry said he was struck by the "very different tone", but added that Iran still had questions to answer.
There had been speculation that Mr Rouhani and Mr Obama might meet in New York. Mr Rouhani told journalists that "in principle we did not have any problems with having a meeting", but "there was not sufficient time" for planning the encounter.
The Iranian president rebuffed questions about Iran's reliability as a negotiating partner, saying his country wanted to retain nuclear technology but would submit to IAEA supervision.
"We say explicitly that we do not seek a bomb," he said. "We say explicitly that we believe the building of a bomb is dangerous for us - for our region."
The US and China have said they expect Iran to respond to an existing offer by the US, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany, who form a negotiating group known as the P5+1.
The group has asked Iran to halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20% - a step away from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.
They also demanded Iran shut down the Fordo underground enrichment facility, near Qom.
Substantive talks between Iran and the P5+1 are due to take place on 15 October, and Mr Rouhani said Iran would bring a plan to that meeting, though he did not give details.

This article is originally from: BBC News

۱۳۹۲ شهریور ۳۱, یکشنبه

The (Slow) Rise of Iran’s Women

Gender discrimination is still an issue, especially in high office, but progress is being made.

Nearly 35 years after the Islamic Revolution, gender discrimination is still a challenging issue for Iran. On the one hand, the situation for Iranian women has improved considerably in many respects under the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). On the other, there is a clear and seemingly impregnable ceiling for women in administrative and government positions.

Iranian Women Under the Islamic Republic
In some ways, women have enjoyed significant gains under the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowhere is this more true than in education. In 1976, on the eve of the Revolution, the female literacy rate was a mere 35 percent. Despite the turmoil of the revolution and the imposed war with Iraq, by 1986 this rate had risen to 52 percent. Today, Iranian girls between the ages of 15 and 24 enjoy near universal literacy.
These gains are also reflected in education levels, which have greatly improved as part of the IRI’s commitment to providing universal education. For example, the female enrollment rate for primary education institutions is actually higher than it is for males. Women also graduate from their primary education programs at the same rate as their male counterparts. And despite new restrictions on what they can study, Iranian women are also strong participants in secondary education, with the female general enrollment rate in secondary education about 86 percent of the male rate.
In many ways, the high female education rate also extends to employment, especially since 1992 when the High Council of the Cultural Revolution adopted a new set of employment policies for women. Although women are unemployed at a rate of roughly twice that of men, one-third of doctors, 60 percent of civil servants, and 80 percent of teachers in Iran are women, according to the British historian Michael Axworthy.
One area where Iranian women continue to face clear obstacles is in the upper reaches of the Iranian government. For example, around 30 women signed up to run for president earlier this year, but the Guardian Council – Iran’s constitutional watchdog – rejected their candidacies based solely on gender. As Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdii, a conservative cleric and member of the Guardian Council explained at the time, the “law does not approve” of women running for president.

Women vs Clergy
Indeed, the clergy have long been the fiercest opponents of women holding senior political positions, opposition that dates at least as far back as to the Western-backed Shah’s regime. In fact, before the Revolution, two women served as cabinet ministers under the Amir-Abbas Hoveida premiership. Even during that time, however, religious leaders used their power to prevent these female ministers from playing crucial roles in governing the country.
This competition between women seeking a senior role in public life and conservative clergy opposition has continued during the Islamic Republic. It’s been a long struggle, but Iranian women have continued to chip away at many of the restrictions.
Although women served in parliament during the 1980s and early 1990s, the taboo against a woman serving as an administrative official and in a top management position was finally broken during the reform presidency of Seyed Mohammad Khatami.
The reform period under Khatami in fact greatly enhanced the role of women in public life. To begin with, he appointed Masoumeh Ebtekar as vice president in charge of environmental protection, the first time a woman had served as a vice president. Despite his reputation as a hardliner, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad built on Khatami’s record. For example, he initially tapped Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi, a former parliamentarian who was close to Ahmadinejad, to be his Minister of Health and Medical Education. This made her the first woman to serve as a minister under the Islamic Republic. Ahmadinejad went on to appoint five women as vice presidents during his time in power.
Still, progress has been uneven. For instance, in December of last year Ahmadinejad fired Vahid-Dastjerdi as the Minister of Health and Medical Education. More recently, Nina Siahkali Moradi was elected to a seat on the city council in Qazvin, only to be prevented from taking her position by religious conservatives who disqualified her…for being too attractive. As Moradi’s case demonstrates, progress aside, Iran still has a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights in public life.

Prospects for the Rouhani Era
Some hope that the election of Hassan Rouhani as president of the eleventh government will help further the rights of women in Iranian public life. To date, there have been mixed signs.
On the one hand, Rouhani has chosen not to appoint any women to his Council of Ministers. In a speech last month he explained away this decision by remarking that he had not used women in any ministerial positions due to the country’s “special conditions.” He later stated that he did not believe that appointing a single woman as government minister would result in gender equality.
On the other hand, the release of his all-male cabinet sparked sharp criticism and last month he appeared to respond to this pressure by making Elham Aminzadeh vice president for legal affairs. In addition, he advised his male ministers to employ women in their respective departments.
Perhaps more promising, in his election manifesto Rouhani promised to establish a Ministry for Women. Some women's rights activists, such as Fatemeh Rakei, a reformist MP, have come out in support of the proposal, stating that it would help women’s rights issues receive more funds from the government.
By contrast, Shahla lahiji, a writer, publisher, translator and director of Roshangaran – a prominent publishing house on women's issues – believes Rouhani should be bolder, stating: “Iran is not Afghanistan nor Pakistan, the wishes of Iranian woman have been glossed over by having only one woman in the Ministry and that’s all.  If we take into account the 50% of female university graduates, 40% of the official seats should be filled by women in the near future whether the government wants it or not.”
There have been other encouraging signs. For example, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif seems to have taken Rouhani’s advice to appoint women to heart, naming Marzieh Afkham, former head of the Foreign Ministry’s Public Relations Department, the first ever Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.  Afkham, 48, is a career diplomat and has been praised by her predecessor, Abbas Araqhchi, who called her "seasoned and experienced." Meanwhile, Farideh Farhi, a prominent Iran expert at the University of Hawaii, called Zarif’s appointment of Afkham an “extremely bold move.”
Zarif appears to have more such moves in store. According to reports, he also plans to appoint Mansoureh Sharifi Sadr, currently the Foreign Ministry's Director of the Women and Human Rights Department, as the Islamic Republic’s first ever female ambassador. Already, Sadr has served as Iran’s deputy ambassador to Japan. Moreover, according to Abbas Araghchi, the former Foreign Ministry’s Spokesman, Zarif is also considering another woman as Iran’s representative to the UN in Geneva, although Araghchi refused to identify who the candidate was, instead saying that her name would be announced later.

Women Representing Iran
Following these decisions, it is apparent that Rouhani and his cabinet are sending a strong message to the rest of the world by appointing women to government positions. Although no women are serving in ministerial positions, they will are being appointed as Iran’s diplomats. Therefore, they will become the face Iran shows to the rest of the world.
This should improve Iran’s image abroad. For years, Iran has been considered by many to be an egregious human rights violator, especially when it comes to women and children’s rights. By appointing women to diplomatic roles, Rouhani and his cabinet are increasing the respect foreign nations have for Iran even as the president fulfills an electoral promise to place women in his government.
In his inaugural address, Rouhani asked the world to “talk to Iran in reverence not in treatment.” Female diplomats will undoubtedly help him form relationships with the world based on mutual respect and peace.

This Article is Published in TheDiplomat Magazine originally.