New female Iranian MP ‘barred over handshake with man’
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New female Iranian MP ‘barred over handshake with man’

Powerful Guardian Council issues ban on reformist Minoo Khaleghi entering parliament over apparently unconfirmed image taken in China

Iranian MPs attend a parliament session in Tehran, March 1, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)
Iranian MPs attend a parliament session in Tehran, March 1, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

A new female MP in Iran has been barred from parliament after she allegedly shook hands with a male non-family member while on a trip abroad, the Guardian reported Friday.

Such contact between unrelated men and women is strictly forbidden under the country’s Islamic law. According to the report, freshman reformist parliamentarian Minoo Khaleghi has denied that the contact took place.

The new MP, who teaches law at Isfahan University, wrote in an open letter that she rejected “boundless rumors” which questioned her “dignity and character” as a Muslim, Bloomberg reported.

Khaleghi’s successful bid for a parliament seat in February’s elections was approved by the Guardian Council, a powerful Iranian constitution committee that oversees all candidacies for public office. It was the council, however, which apparently banned her from entering Iran’s parliament, or Majlis, when it reopens in May.

According to the Guardian, local media reports said that opponents of Khaleghi in her hometown of Isfahan may have acquired photographs that claim to show “a woman shaking hands with an unrelated man apparently during a trip to China.” The images could not be confirmed as genuine, the paper said.

Iranian MP Minoo Khaleghi (Wikimedia Commons, Hamed Malekpour, CC BY 4.0)
Iranian MP Minoo Khaleghi (Wikimedia Commons, Hamed Malekpour, CC BY-4.0)

Fellow MP Ali Motahari wrote to the council, warning that the decision could set a dangerous precedent, the Guardian reported. He said that should the ban be upheld, the interior minister must face impeachment as parliament, not the council, should endorse legislators elected by the Iranian people.

“The Majlis should impeach the interior minister for not defending the rights of the nation and yielding to an illegal practice that is threatening the honor of the Islamic Republic,” Motahari said.

Allies of Iran’s relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani made major gains in the February 26 vote, in the wake of a nuclear deal that saw sanctions on the Islamic Republic lifted in return for strict oversight on the country’s atomic program. Conservatives won 103 seats, while the pro-Rouhani coalition of moderates and reformists, dubbed the “List of Hope,” won 95, with other seats going to independents and minorities.

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