Friday, January 14, 2005

Iranian Parliament

Iran has quite an interesting system. It has a democratically elected parliament with oversight by an unelected Council of Guardians. This pseudo-democracy is quite an improvement compared to all other Middle Eastern countries with the obvious exceptions of Israel and Turkey. This fact alone illustrates the cultural differences in the Middle East. As the only three non-Arab countries in the Middle East are all far more democratic than their Arab neighbors. The Iran revolution of 1979 attempted to fuse democracy with an Islamic theocracy. How well this has been done is open for debate and obviously the Iranian system has huge problems not least being the hardliner control over all important aspects of the state including the army, judiciary, and the Council of Guardians.

But what a lot of Americans and Canadians do not know is that there are women in the Iranian Parliament. Eleven out of 290 seats were held by women in the last session of parliament. That is about 4% the seats are held by women which is tiny of course by still better then Saudi Arabia where the man can't even vote. Around 13% of the members in the American Congress are woman. And 21% of the seats in the Canadian parliament are held by women. So we still have a ways to go to establish gender equality in our political system. Hell women can not even vote in the few elections that are held in the Gulf Arab states. I would argue states like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iran who all have less then 4% woman representation in parliament are at a similar stage that Western countries were at a century. At the turn of the century it looked unlikely that women would ever gain the right to vote but with the aid of WWI woman proved they were as capable as any man. More details on female participation in the Iranian parliament and local councils can be found here .

Another fact that would most likely amaze Westerners would be that there is a Jew and three Christians in the Iranian parliament. A Jew! Under the constitution of Iran five seats are reserved for minorities. Let's look at how many Muslims are in the American Congress eh? Hmmmmm there is not a single Muslim to be found in this Christian Congress although there is a sizable Jewish minority. Here is a BBC article on the situation of the Jews in Iran including a picture of Morris Mottamed the Jewish MP.

This helps put some of the American propaganda in perspective. I think despite the current name calling i.e. 'Great Satan' and 'Axis of Evil' Iran and the United States can work together in order to promote each others security because the USA doesn't really have any other option then diplomacy in this case. More on that later.


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