The Iranian Parliament approved President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nominee for Health Minister,Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, yesterday. Dastjerdi is the country’s first woman to be appointed to the cabinet since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. The nominations of two other women, Fatemeh Ajorlou for the welfare and social security minister and Susan Keshavarz for the education minister position were blocked, reported the BBC.
After her nomination was approved, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi reportedly said, “I think today women reached their long-standing dream of having a woman in the cabinet to pursue their demands…This is an important step for women and I hold my head high.” During the confirmation process, she also said, “Women must have a greater role in the country’s affairs…Where there are women and men working together, miracles take place,” according to the Guardian UK.
Dastjerdi is reportedly a hardline conservative who has previously proposed gender segregated healthcare. She is a gynecologist and currently teaches at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, where she is also a member of the Medical Ethics Board Committee,reported Bloomberg.
Ahmadinejad was sworn in to his second term in office August 5, following widespread massive protests both in Iran and internationally after June’s disputed presidential election. Women played a major role in the public uprising that followed the election and were particularly visible during the election campaigns.
There was strong support among women for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi whose wife, Zahra Rahnavard, played an especially visible role in her husband’s campaign and continued to speak out during post-election protests. There is widespread speculation that Ahmadinejad’s move to appoint women to the cabinet is a means of courting women’s support after the post-election turmoil.