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Iran's Phantom First Lady Comes Out

Like all the Islamic Republic's first ladies, the wife of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has been something of a phantom, with very occasional public appearances and no discernible political role. Yet recently Azam al-Sadat Farahi has bucked that trend.

She has publicly called on Egypt's first lady to use her influence to secure help for the people of Gaza. In a letter to Suzanne Mubarak, published by Iranian news agencies, Farahi wrote that "witnessing the dead bodies of women and children is painful and even worse is that some governments in Arab and Islamic countries do not support Gaza's oppressed people."

She then adds: "You could ask your husband and his administration to prevent the intensification of the humanitarian catastrophe by opening the way for aiding Palestine's people."

The move has surprised many Iranians and it has been widely discussed on Farsi forums and blogs. Here's a selection of comments from an Iranian news aggregator: 

One refers to Ahmadinejad's wife black chador: "the little bit of her nose that has not been covered by her chador looks beautiful."

Another suggests that Egypt's first lady should reply: "She should write back to Ahmadinejad's wife and say 'behave like the wife of Imam Hassan did.' I think it was his eighth wife who killed him."

One writes: "What do you expect from someone who sleeps next to Ahmadinejad?!"

And another: "They give money for killing Mubarak, then they write a letter." (A group of radical Iranian students has offered a $1.5 million reward for the execution of Mubarak.)

According to the Shahab news agency, Farahi sent her letter to Suzanne Mubarak about two weeks after Iran's former first lady, the wife of Mohammad Khatami, sent a letter to the wife of the king of Qatar calling on all governments and people to support the Palestinian people.

Perhaps Khatami's wife has inspired the first lady? Or is this a public expression of a personal rivalry?

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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