"Our women must be Islamic in the fields of family, employment, and work. The fact that our sisters are given maternity leave for a while does not solve all their problems. Our loved ones have dozens of other problems in managing the home. Home management is for housewives, and patronage is for husbands.”
So proclaimed Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, Mashhad’s Friday Imam, representative of the Supreme Leader in Khorasan Razavi province, and President Ebrahim Raisi’s father-in-law, while speaking at a Students’ Day conference at Ferdowsi University on Tuesday, December 7. The Shia cleric was trying to make the point that the presence of female politicians – both MPs and in local councils – had done little to improve women’s lot in Iran.
In the same address, he added: “It is not appropriate for female council members to comment on city executive matters, like men." Women did have the right to intervene and comment on national decisions, the president’s performance and that of local governors, he conceded, in order “to protect the interests of women”.
Referred to by some as an Ayatollah, Al-Hoda has a track record of working to exclude women from public life. In July 2018, he said of women's activities outside the home: "Unfortunately, today women in some cases enter areas that are only befitting of men, which makes the men withdraw." In the same year, he chided officials at Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting: "Women do not have to be presenters in IRIB programs."
In June 2020, Al-Hoda used a public sermon to forbid women from riding bicycles on the streets of Mashhad. Female cyclists, he declared, “set fire to the instincts of young people”, causing them to burst into “uncontrollable flames”. His intervention this summer also led to Iranian female athletes being barred from carrying the national flag at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Friday Imam also has stern views on the dress and comport of both sexes, having said in the past: “It is haram and immoral for a woman wearing a hijab to socialize, laugh or joke with a non-mahram [unmarriageable male relative, such as a brother or father]. It is also immoral for men to show their arms, chest, and collar, and to wear clothes that provoke women." Men and women, he added in March 2021, should not call each other by their first names at home. Doing so, he said, was a “Western custom”.