Historically, the wives of Iranian presidents have not been publicly active, but since the 2009 presidential election, the wives of candidates have come under the spotlight.
In the presidential election on June 18, organized by the Guardian Council (a supervisory body) to win over tough justice chief Ebrahim Raisi, despite the lowest turnout in the history of the Islamic Republic with 48.8 million votes, it is important to have his wife and , more importantly, how the couple affects women’s rights in Iran.
Jamileh Alamolhoda was born in 1965 in the holy city of Mashhad, the son of a prominent ultra-conservative clerical family. She is the daughter of Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, the Friday Prayer Imam of Mashhad and representative of the Supreme Leader in Khorasan Province. Alamolhoda’s father is also a member of the Expert Assembly, an eighty-eight clerical body charged with appointing the Supreme Leader.
In 1983, when Alamolhoda was just 18 years old, she married Raisi. They have two daughters together. During their marriage, Alamolhoda received her bachelor’s degree in midwife. Alamolhoda then moved to study education and received a PhD in education from Tarbiat Moddares University.
In 2015, Alamolhoda said that she believes that “human and social sciences are growing in the context of a civilization that contrasts with the Islamic civilization, which has a great impact on all cultural and epistemological areas of Islamic society. However, social science experts were unwilling to expand Islamic science and knowledge. ”Like her father, Alamolhoda is committed to the growth of Islamic science – the study of social issues from an Islamic perspective – which explains why she founded the Institute of Science and founded and directs technology studies from Shahid Beheshti University. She is also the author of the book, Islamic theory of human development.
It may seem surprising that a woman should come from such a traditional and conservative family. However, education for men and women has been promoted since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 – albeit with some hurdles for Iranian women. In 2019, women made up 47.6 percent of the student body in higher education, a number that has declined significantly in recent years.
The urge for education under the Islamic Republic may have something to do with Imam Ali’s dictation to “look for education, even if it is in China” – China is metaphorically far from Iraq, where the first Shiite imam lived 14 centuries ago.
Perhaps this could be the logic behind why Alamolhoda was allowed by her husband to continue her college education. When Raisi ran as a leading hardliner against incumbent Hassan Rouhani in 2017, he said in an interview: “When we got married for the first time, my wife really wanted to go to college. She asked me if I would let her study. I said ‘definitely’. “
Despite her degree in education, Alamolhoda is rooted in family tradition and conservatism, which means that a woman’s role is primarily to be a mother and a wife.
When Raisi decided to run in 2017, Alamolhoda reportedly passed out upon hearing his decision. Even so, she became something of a vocal contender.
During a campaign rally, Alamolhoda said that “femininity is being lost and women are behaving like men” and that this is “the legacy of Western civilization”. She added: “There is no gender, there is parity and a pair. [The West] needed women’s work, so they told the women to become workers too. ”
Alamolhoda reiterated her conservative views during the 2017 race, stating that the “Election is a site of a battle between two streams of thought on women’s rights and issues. A stream of thoughts defends the work of women. Instead of marriage, it supports women’s independence, women’s freedom and gender equality. Gender equality means paying women’s support. Without a father and husband, the Islamic State has to pay alimony. ”She contradicted herself during a campaign freeze at Alzahra University, a women’s college in Tehran, during the 2021 elections, when she claimed that her husband believed in participatory justice and that women retain their freedom of choice should, and stated that a change in the status of women will only happen if they become pioneers.
At the same time, Alamolhoda Hejab called “a political matter” and that it was a “way to emancipate women”.
All of this tells us that with a Raisi presidency, in addition to likely continued mismanagement, systematic corruption and further repression, women’s rights will be further curtailed. Raisi and his wife believe in the traditional division of labor between men and women and will use women’s politics to focus on the traditional notion that women should be wives and mothers. Alamolhoda reiterated this during the 2021 election campaign by saying that “the third model is the family orientation model along with social impact and activism”.
Thus, women’s politics will look like it did during the hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s term in office from 2005 to 2013. The first action Ahmadinejad took as president was to change the name and direction of the women’s participation center to “Center for Women and Family Affairs”, which deals with women’s affairs, including all bills related to women. This name change was a symbolic reversal of the reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s policy on women, which emphasized the full participation of women in society, especially economic and political participation.
By the end of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, female employment had fallen from 19 to 14 percent. Another blow to women’s rights under Ahmadinejad was the passage of a controversial family support law in 2012 that allowed men to remarry and have multiple wives without their first wife’s permission. Ahmadinejad was also very opposed to free and affordable vasectomies and contraceptives, which have helped reduce the country’s rapid birth rate, as he viewed them as problematic “secular world” policies.
With a precedent like this, one can assume that a Raisi presidency would pursue pro-natalist policies that further restrict women’s access to contraception. This will have the greatest impact on poor families. Early marriage is encouraged as the candidate couple believes in early marriage – in accordance with tradition. As a result, the slight advances made in women’s economic participation – between 14 percent and 16 percent prior to the pandemic – are likely to be reversed. Unsurprisingly, political representation will remain low – a trend that persisted even under Rouhani’s moderate governments, which had only two women in his cabinet.
As women’s rights will take a back seat, there will also be more restrictions on women, such as stricter monitoring of mandatory hejab, activities by nonprofit women’s rights organizations, and women’s full participation in society. While the crackdown on women’s rights activists is likely to get tougher – as Raisi’s tenure as head of justice shows – their protests will grow stronger as the activists remain silent. Iranian women have fought too hard for too long to step back.
Dr. Fatemeh Haghighatjoo is the director of the Nonviolent Initiative for Democracy (NID) and a member of the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University. From 2000 to 2004 she was a former member of the Iranian reformist majority parliament.
Tue, April 20, 2021
Who’s Afraid of the Iranian Faezeh Hashemi?
Faezeh Hashemi could be a terrific presidential candidate for Iran in 2021. One more reason why Ayatollah Khamenei and the authorities are not letting her come to power.
The race for the Iranian presidency
Who will win Iran’s presidential election in June? This ongoing series examines the likely candidates and the issues that can affect the race.