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Sunday, 13 February, 2000, 16:20 GMT
Iranian women seek equality

woman with flyer Flyer for Jewish candidate, Hilda Rabih-Zadeh

A record number of women candidates are standing in Iran's upcoming elections, promising to put political and legal equality on the Islamic republic's political agenda.

Electoral authorities have approved 513 women, out of a total of 6,083 candidates, to run for the expanded 290-seat parliament on 18 February. In the Tehran region, 160 women are on the ballot.

Women candidates from the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the faction close to reformist President Mohammad Khatami, promised to seek expanded custody rights for mothers, equal pay for equal work, and an end to forced marriages.

Iranian women Iranian women peruse candidates' flyers
"Until now, women's rights and sensitivities were derided in Iran and it is now our role and our obligation to restore these rights," said candidate Vahideh Talaqani at a news conference.

The restrictions imposed on women in Iran are less strict than in some of the Gulf Arab states, which bar women even from driving.

But the Islamic law in force since the 1979 revolution places Iranian women under male supervision and requires them to follow a strict dress code.

Clerics' approval

The five candidates at the conference said their aims were consistent with the teachings of Islam, adding that they would seek the backing of senior Muslim clerics.

Five candidates The five candidates vowed to boost women's rights
All but one wore the long black chador championed by conservative clerics.

"Cultural problems are the main reasons for the discrimination which is carried out in the name of Islam," said one candidate, Elaheh Koulaei.

Women hold 14 of the current 270 parliamentary seats.

President Khatami has called for greater participation of women in Iran's political life since coming to office in 1997. Reformist groups are hoping to win control of the new parliament from conservatives.

One deputy, Soheila Jelodarzadeh said the presence of a strong reform faction would shore up women's rights.

"We are not concerned about the (high) number of men who will be elected because we believe that reformers will be in control of the assembly, " she said.

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See also:
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08 Jan 00 |  Middle East
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29 Jan 00 |  Middle East
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