The Iranian parliament is reportedly seeking a ruling on whether the constitution allows a woman to run for president. Women in Iran are allowed to vote and run for seats in parliament.
Iran's official news agency, IRNA, reports Iran's conservative Guardian Council is being asked to decide whether the Iranian constitution specifically prohibits women from seeking the presidency.
The constitution says the president should be Iranian, a Muslim and political rejal. The meaning of that word is at the center of the dispute.
According to Iran expert and Cairo University lecturer Amal Hamada, the word rejal normally means man. But she says the way it is used in the Iranian constitution is open to interpretation.
"Women, of course, are pro this right, and they say that the constitution, when it identified the personality of the runners for presidency, does not limit it to only men," she said. "And the word man in the constitution does not really mean a man, physical man, but means a human. And of course, on the other side, they restrict this to a man only, and they say that women are not allowed to run for public office. They may be a member of parliament, they may work in administrative positions, but not as president."
Ms. Hamada says, while her own interpretation of the Iranian constitution is that it allows women to run for president, she does not believe the hard-line Guardian Council will agree.
The council has the authority to veto candidates it decides are not fit to run for public office.
In January, the council barred more than 2,000 mostly reformist candidates from running for parliament, triggering allegations the elections were rigged.
Conservative candidates swept to power and regained the majority they had lost following parliamentary elections four years ago.
It is not known when the Guardian Council will decide whether women can seek the presidency. President Mohammad Khatami's second term expires next year, and he is not eligible to run again.
There is no indication that any Iranian woman plans to run for the presidency. Shirin Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, has been mentioned as a potential candidate, but she says she has no such ambitions.
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