'Moderate' Iranian President Rouhani asks woman vice-president to 'cover up'

'Moderate' Iranian President Rouhani asks woman vice-president to 'cover up'
Iran's 'moderate' Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has told a deputy to wear the traditional, all-covering chador, which leaves only the face exposed.
2 min read
27 August, 2017
Joneidi has sparked anger from Iranian women after wearing the chador [Twitter]

Just a couple of weeks into her appointment, the new Iranian vice president's decision to done the all-covering traditional black chador is raising questions among women in the Islamic Republic - especially after it was revealed that she was asked to wear it by the "moderate" Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

While Laaya Joneidi wears a hijab - the headscarf that women are required to wear by law in Iran, along with a long coat with trousers - her switch to the more conservative chador serves as a political statement in the Islamic Republic.

The imposition by Rouhani came after him failing to nominate any women to serve as ministers in his cabinet. This ran counter to a promise made by the self-proclaimed moderate cleric during his election campaign to bring more women into government.

"Not only could Rouhani not appoint a woman minister, but also he could not appoint a vice-president who does not wear the chador either and forced her to wear the chador," tweeted Hamid Mashayekhi Rad, an Islamic seminary student and activist.

The debate began when a government website posted a photograph of Joneidi - who has a doctorate from Harvard in comparative law and international commercial arbitration - wearing the long black chador, exposing only her face.

Things got worse when Joneidi - one of two female vice presidents in Rouhani's new government - gave an interview to the reformist daily Sharq newspaper shortly after.

"Mr Rouhani, because of the protocol of the cabinet, asked me to wear the chador," she told the newspaper. "I respected his demand."

Rouhani promised a quota for women in goverment during his re-election campaign.

Rouhani had no women ministers in his first term. When he announced appointees for his second term, earlier in August, there were again no women among his choices for the 18 member cabinet.

The following day, Rouhani named two women as vice-presidents, including Joneidi.