By Sousan Alemansour, Attorney at Law, Irvine, California
The February 2010 travel of Ali Ardeshir Larijani, the Speaker of the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to Japan for discussions about Iran's nuclear enrichment program received moderate media attention. To the Iranian nationals, however, more interesting than the overseas trip and the resulting Japanese offer, was the delegation accompanying the Speaker. Reportedly, Mr. Larjani's delegation included, among others, the Head of the Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee and a female Parliament Member Dr. Zohreh Elahian. For those who follow the shift in the internal policies of Iran from exclusion to cautionary inclusion of women, the Eighth Session of the Parliament is of interest as it has eight female members each serving different committees. In the interim: the attendance of two of Iran's female MPs at the March 2010 UN Commission on the Status of Women; Iran's appointment of a female cabinet member as the Minister of Health and Safety; and, the appointment of madam Bedaghi as Deputy General Counsel to the Islamic Republic is also noteworthy. Two of the eight parliament members, second term madam Alia and first term madam Elahian, serve on the powerful Committee of National Security and Foreign Policy. Of the twenty seven members of the Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, Elahian is the 5th ranking official after the Speaker.
Dr. Zohreh Elahian
Dr. Zohreh Elahian represents the districts of Tehran, Rey, Shemiranat and Eslamshahr. She is a member of Osulgarayan, those claiming devotion to the strict principles of the Islamic revolution. She is a member of committees on foreign relations with Japan, Uruguay and Nicaragua.
An active member of the Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, a bespectacled principalist, fiercely loyal to the Islamic Order, Elahian accepts her chadour as second skin without hindrance. Her public comments on Iran's foreign and domestic policies are crisp, unminced and nationalistic.
On issues relating to foreign policy, Elahian is outspoken and authoritative. Her support of related legislation is perhaps as fierce and direct as her words, with an apparent fine honed sense of rectitude and righteousness that keeps her committed to the principles.
Recently, in an interview with IRNA regarding Iran's Jamaran
Destroyer, MP Elahian expressed her belief that the
building of Jamaran is a sign of Islamic Republic's expansive military
mobilization capabilities stating that ". . . Jamaran's presence is
instrumental in Middle East's defensive maneuvers."
When asked about the concerns of neighboring Arab countries over Iran's Jamaran, MP Elahian stated that ". . . in fact the neighboring countries should feel safe as Jamaran's defensive maneuvers will play a major role in the security and stability of the region." She reiterated that ". . . Iran has never violated the rights of other Middle Eastern countries and Jamaran will give the message to the West that sanctions are without effect and their offensive positions are not the answer."
These nationalistic comments came on the coattails of her support of the proposed legislation of Shahrivar 1388 (number 8343) entitled "Revelation of violation of human rights by America in today's world". The proposed legislation states, in part, that, ". . . despite its claim of protection of human rights and campaign against terrorism, the United States of America engages in acts of interference and intermeddling in internal affairs of other countries, and engages in military operations which in effect increases and expands and strengthens terrorism thereby causing severe security problems for regional countries." Accordingly, ". . . to counter these and implement protective measures, an amount equal to 20 million dollars is earmarked for this purpose."
The constitutional support for the passage of this legislation may lay in Articles Seventy One (Parliament's Power to Legislate) , or in One Hundred Fifty Two (Foreign Policies of the Islamic Republic are based on rejection and negation of colonization, protection of independence and geographic boundaries of the country, protection of the rights of all Muslims and mutual peaceful relations with non combative states) or in One Hundred Fifty Four (the Islamic Republic of Iran recognizes the rights, freedom... of all humans and while it will not interfere with internal affairs of other countries, it will protect the rights of the aggrieved). It is, however, unclear which constitutional provision allows the ear mark of the twenty million dollars for such act. Nonetheless, Elahian continues to press ahead and recently urged the government to provide the tools and equipment needed for eye-scanning and fingerprinting of foreign nationals upon arrival in Iran - an anti terrorism concern revealing her policies along the party line.
On the domestic front, MP Elahian is direct. In line with Article Twenty Seven of the Constitution that guarantees to the citizens the right to peaceful unarmed association, she publicly blasted the controversial former chief prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court Saeed Mortasavi (involving the Kahrizak murders) stating "... Those who were transferred to Kahrizak were not hooligans ... they were just a group of youth and university students who were protesting at the country's situation..." Saeed Mortazavi has since been demoted.
However, Elahian's most ultra conservative and loyalist posturing are directed at the domestic Green Movement. Article Twenty Six of the Republic's Constitution guarantees association of "parties, . . . political assemblies and Islamic associations or religious minorities, conditioned that they do not violate doctrines of independence, freedom, national unity and constitution of the Islamic Republic..." But, Elahian's recent public criticism of the Green Movement is aimed at the heart of that establishment. "Unfortunately," she said "we have not seen clarification of the Green Movement's position respecting the Republic's sworn enemies, The U.S. and Israel. We are aware of the rhetoric used by the Green Movement at the Ghods Walkathon, which rhetoric was in direct contravention of the teachings of the imam (Khomeini). So, in my opinion we cannot consider the Green Movement an insider unless other events occur."
MP Elahian's support of domestic legislation relating to the rights of women, children and the disabled is, however, an indication of her more liberal social views. A proposed legislation is aimed at supplementing provisions 1 and 7 of law passed in 1364 (25 years ago - it is now 1389) relating to Article 21 of the Constitution concerning the government's duty to protect the rights of mothers and the protection of widows and elder women without guardians. This proposed legislation is intended to allow mothers of disabled children, with the permission of the highest ranking official of their division, to work part time and yet be able to enjoy rights relating to their retirement pension and retirement pay.
Elahian did not publicly state how the proposed legislation stands in compliance with the prescriptions of Article Twenty of the Constitution that guarantees to all citizens, whether man or woman, the equal protection of the laws. And so, perhaps in the future MP Elahain will have to determine whether an unequal legislation can be equally applied.
It is common knowledge that the uncompromising position adopted by the Islamic Republic against the demands of women and minorities for equality of rights is neither supported by its constitution, nor by its religious laws. While the Muslim countries of Jordan, Syria and Pakistan maintain a legal framework for advancement of female judicial officers, history will remember the execution of Farroukh Rou Parsa, the demotion of Judge Shirin Ebadi, and the stoning of women by leaders whose designation is intended to guarantee against institutional corruption - Article one hundred seven. But, the western media's concerns with Sarah Palin's "handwritten" notes will divert attention from the systematic violation of citizens' rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression guaranteed by Articles Twenty Seven and Twenty Three of the Islamic Republic's Constitution.
While the Islamic Republic continues to re-create itself, perhaps more for self preservation than for any other reason, the interests of the United States will be served if its concentration on the Iranian affairs involves issues other than the nuclear enrichment program. It is so because the democratic interests of the Iranians and those of the international community are, in the words of Mehdi Khalaji, in confluence. Even though the Constitution of the Islamic Republic expressly guarantees protection against tyranny of thought, of the people, and of economic monopoly, the reality remains otherwise. Therefore, if the Judeo-Christian G8 continues to emphasize one single issue to the exclusion of other political and social issues, liberal newspapers will continue to be closed by ultra conservative in violation of the freedom of press guaranteed by Article Twenty Four of Iran's Constitution.
And so, while the New York Times believes that Iran's nuclear program is "one of the world's most polarizing issues," and Secretary of State Clinton deems it appropriate to engage in a public clash with the Russian Sergy Lavrov, a closer view of the gradual shift in Iran's internal policies toward women reveals a need for a drastically different approach by the Obama administration to issues concerning Iranians. The currently dysfunctional approach of threats, punishment and retribution will simply strengthen the anti-West sentiments. Washington's approach must necessarily become inclusionary of the Iranian population, assisting the everyday citizen with access to information, the internet and news, and facilitating travel to the U.S. and European countries.
In the interim, Zohreh Elahian remains a notable political figure. For that, go no further than her recent comments about the use of the phrase rejal-e siasi (distinguished political men) as set forth in article One Hundred Fifteen of the Constitution. Reportedly, MP Elahian asked The Speaker of the Parliament if one's status as rejal-e siasi is a prerequisite to the office of the presidency. She asked whether the phrase in fact meant that women are thus precluded from seeking that office.
If anyone assumes her perfunctory, stand corrected, she may surprise you.
 1975-1979, the author's father was an appointed Governor of Rey.
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