May 252017
 
In Remote Iranian Province, Women Make Gains At Ballot Box

Iran’s sprawling southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province is notorious for insecurity, poverty, drug trafficking, and deadly clashes between security forces and militants.More recently, however, it made headlines this month for sweeping a record number of women onto city and village councils.Officials say the number of women elected to local councils in the Sunni-majority province, which shares borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, more than doubled.“Four hundred and fifteen women have been elected to the city councils in the province,” Governor Ali Osat Hashemi was quoted by Iranian media as saying on May 23, up from just 185.In one village, Afzalabad, in the district of Khash, all 10 candidates on the council ballot on May 19 were women.The numbers remain low nationally. Of the more than 287,000 candidates registered for last week’s elections, just 6 percent were women, according to official figures.But moderates and reformists, bolstered by the rise to power of President Hassan Rohani and their success in the 2016 parliamentary elections, have aimed at ending the tight grip of conservatives on local politics.Rohani, a veteran politician who has risked crossing Iran’s powerful unelected establishment with calls for modest reform inside the country and on the international scene, was reelected on May 19 with 57 percent of the vote. The victory was widely seen as a blow to political and cultural hard-liners and an expression of Iranians’ desire for interaction with the world.“Despite having university educations, [women] don’t have freedom of speech. I want to defend them,” Esmat Irandagani told the Iranian daily [Read More…]

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