It appears that the Supreme Leader and President Rouhani aren’t reading from the same script on women’s rights in Iran.
On Saturday, at a ceremony for the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, Ayatollah Khamenei explained:
Equality does not necessarily always translate into justice. Justice is always right, but equality is at times right and at other times wrong.
Westerners, for various reasons, have misunderstood the issue of woman and have spread that wrong and destructive notion worldwide, and through making commotion they are not allowing others to speak out.
The Supreme Leader continued, “Contrary to some viewpoints, employment is not women’s major issue.” Having a job was “acceptable…as long as it does not conflict with the major issue” — the family.
Over to President Rouhani on Sunday as he marked Fatima’s birthday, which is also commemorated as Mother’s Day: “For centuries, women in Iran have fought for their rights and acted accordingly.”
Rouhani cited examples such as women’s roles in the Tobacco Protest against the Shah at the end of the 19th century and in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He declared:
We do not believe that men are the first gender and women are the second gender….Women cooperate with men on the same side, and both deserve human dignity and honor.
But what about the Supreme Leader’s edict that women must put service in the home before any equality in the workplace? Saying “the future of Iran should provide more balanced and developed roles for women along with men”, Rouhani said, “A father that enters society does not forget his paternal responsibilities, nor does a mother give up her maternal responsibilities once she enters society.”
He then asked:
How is it possible to forget half of the human community? How is it possible to make this half retreat to their solitude…by pretext of providing security to them?