The Woman Ahmadinejad Should Fear
The Iranian and international press were interested in other issues. She was asked if she saw herself as an Iranian version of Michelle Obama. "I am not Iran's Michelle Obama...I am a follower of Zahra (the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad)," she replied self-confidently in English. But, she added, "I respect all women who are active." She said she would not stop working at the university if her husband was elected and that she would perhaps accompany him on trips abroad, to the applause of the Iranian journalists. Even the local press seemed pleased to hear her message of soft emancipation.Zahra Rahnavard could turn the tide in Friday's elections in Iran. The former university chancellor is the wife of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and her popularity with Iranian women could be his secret weapon against President Ahmadinejad.
Even before Zahra Rahnavard had arrived, it was clear that this woman was an important figure in the Iranian election campaign. The team working for the election of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi had only expected a few journalists to turn up to his wife's press conference. In the end 150 gathered to hear her speak.
Since the revolution in 1979 no other political spouse has been so much in the public eye. Rahnavard is even featured in her husband's election posters: she stands next to him, holding his hand. In Iran's strict Muslim society this alone is nothing short of spectacular. She wears her black chador loosely and instead of a plain scarf, hers is printed with a colorful floral pattern. Thousands of copies of the poster can be seen across Tehran in the run up to Friday's presidential election.
Mousavi's strategy of bringing his wife into the campaign could ultimately tip the vote in his favor. People see the image of Rahnaward standing next to her husband as an equal as a kind of election promise. Many, and not just Iran's women, hope that if this reformist candidate wins, it could mark a new era of personal freedoms.
Absent independent opinion polls, it is impossible to forecast how the vote might turn out. It does, however, appear that Mousavi is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's most serious challenger. And the deployment of his wife on the campaign trail could play a major role.
For weeks Rahnavard has been travelling around Iran -- with and without her husband -- trying to drum up support for the conservative reformer. She talks about providing women with more rights before family courts, better education opportunities and more jobs. That is not only appealing to the female half of the estimated 46 million eligible voters -- many of their fathers, brothers and husbands also think this the right way forward.
Rahnavard has turned into Mousavi's secret weapon -- a fact made abundantly clear last week when Ahmadinejad himself attacked her. The 64-year-old wife of his rival might well be the former chancellor of the Al-Zahra women's university in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said, but her academic title is not genuine. Petty to be sure. But it shows that the president sees her as a genuine threat.
When Rahnavard arrived before Sunday's press conference, she was wearing a colorful headscarf and heavy make-up, a violation of rules in Iran. A denim shirt could be seen at the sleeves of her chador.
Reforms -- Within Limits
She had called the press conference to defend herself against Ahamdinejad's reproaches. LinkHere
Iran Election: Ahmadinejad Chances Threatened By Leading Clerics
Senior Cleric Enters Fray, Decries 'Fabrications'
In a highly unusual public attack backed by other leading clerics, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani called on Iran's supreme spiritual leader to take action against Mr Ahmadinejad for "mis- statements and fabrications" during a televised debate last week. During the debate, Mr Ahmadinejad, who is facing an unusually strong challenge from reformists, accused Mr Rafsanjani, himself a former president, of corruption and of manoeuvring politically to unseat him.
Mr Rafsanjani fired off a letter to the supreme leader in which he warned that "tens of millions" of Iranians had witnessed the President's statements during the heated TV showdown. He urged Ayatollah Khamenei to take action, hinting that if he did not, furious supporters of the rival candidates might take the law into their own hands. "I am expecting you to resolve this position in order to extinguish the fire, whose smoke can be seen in the atmosphere, and to foil dangerous plots to take action... there is no doubt that some people, parties and factions will not tolerate this situation". Fourteen other clerics from the holy city of Qom, the centre of Iran's powerful religious establishment, issued a separate statement in which they voiced "deep concern and regret" that Iran's image had been harmed by the public debates.
After four years in which Iran's economy has tanked, oil revenues collapsed and relations with the West have festered, Friday's election is seen by many Iranians as the best chance in years for a meaningful swerve in direction. Many more in the West are hoping it will deliver a shift away from the intensely confrontational approach - particularly over Iran's nuclear programme - favoured by Mr Ahmadinejad. LinkHere