Iranian City Councilwoman Deemed ‘Too Attractive’ to Take Her Post

Illustration for article titled Iranian City Councilwoman Deemed ‘Too Attractive’ to Take Her Post

International observers hoping with crossed fingers and toes that Iranian politics would be just a teensy more progressive thanks to the country’s newly-elected president, Hassan Rowhani, will be disappointed to learn that, surprise! this is so not the case.

At least not so far. According to a Wednesday report in the Times of London, a city councilor in Qazin (which, for all you history nerds, is notable for being the ancient capital of the Persian Empire) was prevented from taking up her post on the city council because all the dude-bros in charge of making sure public works projects get completed three-to-four months behind schedule (city councils are sooooo slooooowww) decided she was too attractive to take the post she was elected to.

Even though Nina Siakhali Moradi — a progressive, young engineer who ran on a platform that pushed for better women’s rights and the restoration of the city’s historical sites — hauled in enough votes during the June election to win a council seat in Qazvin, religious conservatives put up such a massive, rotten-egg stink that they overturned the election results because that’s exactly how representative government does not work.


From the website Al Arabiya:

Even with more than 10,000 votes in the June election, putting her 14th out of 163 candidates and winning her a council seat, the 27-year-old engineer and website designer had her political career cut short because she was deemed too attractive to take up the post.

“We don’t want a catwalk model on the council,” a senior official in Qazvin told local press.

Somewhere in Pawnee, Leslie Knope is balling her fists in rage and grinding her molars.

[The Times of London], [Al Arabiya]

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I feel like I need to add a bit of background here. <SPOILER ALERT: this will be super long, and I apologize in advance.> Carry on.

First of all, Rouhani has been deeply involved in Iranian politics since the Revolution. Since before 1979, really: he was a tremendous supporter of Khomeini during his years in exile. He was elected to the Parliament in 1980, and spent something like 20 years in office. He was in the office of the Supreme National Security Council for more than a dozen years. His primary job? Diplomat, and, for a couple of years, Iran's top nuclear negotiator. He worked under Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, and Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami (the latter being the closest Iran has come to a moderate President.) Needless to say, he is fairly familiar with Iranian politics.

Okay: basic rundown of Rouhani complete. Is he moderate? Unlikely. Aligned with the Green Movement? Nope. All Presidential candidates are vetted by the Guardian Council, which, in essence, rules over everything - including Parliament, President, and all branches of government. The Supreme Leader (for realz, that's what he's called), Ayatollah Khamenei, runs the show.


Sooo....what does the President of Iran do, then?

Truthfully: not a whole lot. I mean, he will be the spokesperson, just as Ahmadinejad was. Definitely, he will assist with the running of the government, like fiscal stuff and diplomacy (or not) and employment issues. The Supreme Leader will certainly find stuff for the Parliament and President to do. But the super important stuff, like the military, foreign policy, nuclear policy, codification of law - this all falls under the auspices of Khamenei...not the President.

Think of it this way: you go into a doughnut shop. It's early, you haven't had any coffee, and you're starving. But there are only two varieties left: the deformed custard-filled, and the last dry longjohns. Neither are particularly great...but whatever. You'll take one. The baker, in the back - the guy behind the curtain - never seems to make enough for the morning rush, and the selection sucks. BUT HE'S THE ONLY SHOW IN TOWN. The dude that serves up the brittle excuse of a pastry says he will give you a discount, and secretly charges you twice as much.

But you know all of this already. So you continue on down the yellow brick road (not to mix metaphors here) to the gas station for a lukewarm cup of piss coffee. Because you don't have the money to move outta this town, and into one with a better doughnut shop. And all of the surrounding towns really really hate you.

Iranian politics - not in a nutshell. The Supreme Leader just might be the Wizard of Oz...running a Persian doughnut shop. <hunches shoulders apologetically at the lousy analogy>

The bottom line is that whatever the President may or may not believe does not matter one whit whatsoever to what the provincial and local governments may or may not do. Qazvin is on the "rug route" in between Tabriz and Tehran, and is fairly out of reach of the relatively short arm of the President. Will this councilwoman ever gain her rightful seat?

Only time will tell.