Saeed Jalili: Iran's Youngest Presidential Candidate Has Ancient Views On Women

At 47, Saeed Jalili is Iran’s youngest presidential candidate. He is considered by many to be the favorite for the post among Iran’s leadership and conservative establishment. He is Iran’s current chief nuclear negotiator, holding one of his government’s most important and secretive portfolios. He also believes that women’s rights are limited to motherhood and is likely to push policies to that effect for at least the next four years if he wins the presidential election on June 14.

This is troubling to say the least as a young female majority completes its higher education in the country and as women continue to make up a significant minority of Iran’s working population.

Surprisingly, Jalili publicly delivered his antiquated stance on women’s rights to an all-female group attending a political rally supporting his candidacy, saying: “Women’s core identity lies in motherhood and her role should be defined within that framework, not in an economic context.”

He went on to say that the West and its partners degrade women as “economic tools” and that Islam calls for women to held in high regard as leaders in family life (read: confined to their homes). 

Jalili is definitely not the first Iranian official to voice these sentiments, but he is the youngest in a long line of conservative Iranian politicians bent on maintaining a male-dominated society supported by the country’s theocratic regime. 

Notably, and especially in recent years, other Muslim-majority countries in Iran’s neighborhood, and around the world, have placed a priority on opening the door for women to increase their presence in the workforce. Many of these countries have instituted their policies independent of Western support, although some policies have been admittedly jolted into effect by recent political turbulence resulting from the Arab Spring.

As scholar Afshin Shahi boldly suggests, Iran’s women, and population in general, may have to come up with “alternative ways” to shake up the country’s leadership and propel Iran into the realities of the present day.

Unfortunately, I could not find pictures of or sentiments from the women who attended Jalili’s rally, but I can imagine there were a few who went home less than pleased with what the future might hold.