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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 July, 2003, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Profile: Elaheh Kulai
Iranian women
No woman has ever sat in the parliament not wearing traditional dress
Elaheh Kulai is one of 11 female MPs in Iran's 290-seat parliament. She is the rapporteur of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, as well as of its subcommittee for Caspian affairs.

Born in 1956 in Tehran, she has a doctorate in international relations and has held senior academic and research posts.

She is a representative of Iran's Centre for Women's Participation, an official organisation set up in 1998 to promote the public role and welfare of women.

Our society needs a soft and logical voice, not one of coercion and threat
Elaheh Kulai

In May 2000, despite threats from conservatives, she and another female MP attended the inaugural session of the new parliament wearing a headscarf and a long tunic.

While Islamic dress code allows this, no woman had ever sat in the Majlis - the Iranian parliament - without the more traditional head-to-toe chador.

She told the Aftab-e Emrooz daily at the time: "Our society needs a soft and logical voice, not one of coercion and threat."

Mrs Kulai was also a leading campaigner for a bill to give women the right to file for divorce without obtaining permission from their husbands.

The bill was passed by the Majlis in August 2002 and approved by the Guardian Council in December that year.

In April 2003, she clashed with the Majlis presidium over its decision to suspend plans for Iran to join the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw).

Mrs Kulai and other female MPs have tried to gain equal treatment for women in two other areas - so far unsuccessfully.

The first concerns "blood money", or compensation paid by convicted murderers to the victim's family. At present, payment is only half if the victim is a woman. The second concerns the abolition of death by stoning for women convicted of adultery.

Elaheh Kulai has been at loggerheads with the Foreign Ministry over the Caspian Sea. In January 2003, the Etemaad daily said she had accused the ministry of failing to invite her to talks on the legal status of the Caspian.

Another daily, Aftab-e Yazd, said she had written a letter to Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, accusing him of failing to secure Iranian interests in the Caspian.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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