Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Iran's Segregation Battle

The new hot issue in Iran is whether college classes should be segregated. Golnaz Esfandiari places the battle in its political context:
"The line (of gender segregation) has become sharper in recent weeks, with the announcement that come September, when the new academic year kicks off, a number of universities would be introducing gender-based segregation.

"The push for segregation comes from the country's religious conservatives at a time when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is involved in a public power struggle with President Mahumd Ahmadinejad.

"In a departure from his track record on segregation, the president has firmly stated his opposition to the latest plan. In a recent letter, Ahmadinejad publicly characterized the initiative as 'superficial and unscientific' and said it should be halted. On July 7, Science Minister Kamran Daneshjoo heeded the order, announcing that the plan had, indeed, been scrapped.

"Former reformist lawmaker Fatemeh Haghighatjou says the president, who is far from being a champion of women's rights, is trying to capitalize on the general public's opposition to segregation at a time when he is facing increased isolation on Iran's political scene."

Esfandiari notes later in the article that Ahmadinejad has supported segregation in the past, though he has also been on the liberal side of the fence. In 2006, he advocated allowing women to attend soccer matches, a move vetoed by Khamene'i.



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