“In foreign countries, they are wise enough not to let women take the helm.”
Thus intoned Yousef Tabatabaei-Nejad, Friday Imam of Isfahan and the province’s Supreme Leader-appointed representative, at a ceremony on July 29. The top cleric was giving an address to introduce the new chairman of Isfahan’s Islamic Publicity Coordination Council. But he then embarked on a tirade about women being too volatile for certain professions because of their “time of the month”.
In his speech, Tabatabei-Nejad told those present that in his view, the budget for Iranian officials’ trips abroad should instead be allocated to mosques and Islamic publicity. “Sometimes these travels are necessary,” he said. “The officials must get out there, keep their eyes open and learn.
"[But] they must learn. When they come and proudly say that a woman can fly an airplane, or a woman is driving a trailer truck, is this really something to be proud of? They should go [abroad] and learn.”
He then claimed that other, unspecified countries barred women from these activities. “Over there, it’s not like this,” he said. “We must not do these things. They don’t give the control to women! In an airplane – I apologize – suddenly that time of the month starts, something happens to the woman, and she lets go of the plane. She gets sick. Is this the way to go?
“They don’t do it this way. They are wise! But on television and in other places, we put on airs, [saying] that we have advanced so far. What I mean is that we have [the budget] for these travels, but not for the cultural work.”
Parts of this mangled speech by a man officially termed an “Ayatollah” in Iran were reported in state media after the event. But an unabridged recording was then sent to IranWire, and curiously enough this particular tangent had been omitted from the reports.
This was probably because it’s far from the first time that Tabatabaei-Nejad, who represents Isfahan on Iran’s supra-legislative body the Assembly of Experts, has declared his opposition to women’s free presence in public spaces – with sometimes lethal consequences.
The misogynist mullah has previously railed against women riding bicycles. He infamously called for the use of “force” against “bad hijab” in a speech thought to have prompted a horrific spate of acid attacks on women in Isfahan in 2014.
“Society should be made to be insecure for women who unveil,” Tabatabei-Nejad had said. “They should not be allowed to break the norms so easily on the streets... The issue of hijab has gone beyond warnings. To fight bad hijab we must raise the stick and use force.”
Barely a year after the acid attacks, Tabatabaei-Nejad then stated that women’s failure to “care for husbands” was a major contributing factor to the increasing divorce rate in Iran. “Mothers don’t teach their daughters how to care for their husbands,” he whined. “We have girls who have had high levels of education but, after they are married, they don’t know how to sew a button or cook a simple dish. They don’t know how to do the simplest household chores.
“Mothers must educate women. They must bring up wives and mothers. A higher education degree has nothing to do with a woman’s running the life of a household.”
Not long afterward, some 4,000 members of paramilitary vigilante group Ansar-e Hezbollah (“Supporters of the Party of God”) were dispatched to the streets of Iran to fight so-called “bad hijab”.
Undeterred by the criticism, Tabatabaei-Nejad also said last year that women should be banned from working in shops, government offices and companies. He also said educating women in mining and industry was “against Islam”.