A female member elected to Iran’s parliament has been banned from her post for allegedly shaking hands with a man unrelated to her during a trip to China, according to local reports.
Newly-elected Minoo Khaleghi, a so-called ‘reformist’ politician who was elected to Iran’s 290-seat Majlis, or parliament, in February denies the allegations.
Iran’s strict Islamic law forbids touching someone of the opposite sex who is not family.
Khaleghi, originally from the Iranian city of Isfahan, along with 13 other women, had been approved as a candidate by Iran’s Shora-ye Negahban, or the Guardian Council, a panel of 12 members, six Islamic law experts and six jurists, responsible for the interpretation of Iran’s constitution, supervising elections and vetting candidates.
The Council overturned its decision to approve Khaleghi, disqualifying her as a candidate without giving any explanation. Many believe she, like several other reformist candidates in the past, has been barred because her political beliefs are not in line with the Council’s hardline conservative Islamic values.
According to The Guardian, reports speculate that Khaleghi’s opponents in Isfahan may have gotten hold of photographs depicting a woman shaking hands with an unrelated man on a trip to China or not properly covering her hair under the compulsory hijab, or headscarf. The photographs have not been verified and dismissed by some as merely rumors.
Khaleghi referenced and categorically denied the allegations on her social media channels,
“It’s a lie; it’s strange and ridiculous and in no way has anything to do with me. The content is far from reality. Whoever started this campaign is merely trying to smear me,” Khaleghi posted.
“This matter should have been left to Parliament to investigate,” conservative Member of Parliament Ali Motahhari said to the media April 3, 2016, according to the semi-official Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA). “The accusations laid against her are not strong.”
“If she did shake a man’s hand abroad, it’s not going to be easy to prove and besides, it’s not wrong to shake an unrelated man’s hand with gloves on,” he said.
A family member close to Khaleghi was quoted saying that the Guardian Council was handed “personal and private photos that could have only been obtained by hacking her phone,” Iranhumanrights.org reported.
“When Minoo went to the Council of Guardians, she was shown an old photo of a woman with a blurry face wearing sun glasses,” said the relative. “She told them it wasn’t her in the photo.”
The latest parliamentary elections, in which self-identifying ‘moderates’ took the lion’s share of seats, served as a wakeup call to Iran’s hardliners.
Victories for Iran’s ‘moderates’ and ‘reformists’ are said to be a strong indication that President Hassan Rouhani could be reelected in 2017.