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June 17, 2009

The Zahra Factor

Zahra 2. jpg.jpg

Maybe what caused Khamenei and the clerics to derail the Iranian election, as much as anything, was their disaffection with Mousavi’s intense and outspoken confidant and wife.

Ahmadinejad signaled as much when, in a startling move, he went out of his way to attack her directly in the last presidential debate (and she responded by threatening to sue). Although she rejects outright comparison, Zahra Rahnavard (sporting what is sometimes referred to by conservatives as the “bad hijab” for its floral pattern) is openly admiring of Michele Obama, describes she and Mousavi as equal partners in most things, and has already modeled herself, through her active involvement the the campaign, in the historic role of Iran’s first “first lady.”

Considering that Ahmadinejad’s wife has hardly been seen in public, and the photos that do exist offer her set back and almost completely obscured by the hajib, images like the one above must be profoundly difficult for fundamentalists to swallow, casting Zahra — in the name of her husband — as a feminist reformer and an iconic figure in her own right.


This second image is very typical, showing Zahra side-by-side with Mousavi (in a characteristic two-handed gesture), very engaged with the crowd and almost always more intense.

(image: Atta Kenare/A.P. Tehran. May 30, 2009)

  • Tena

    All I can say is that by now, if leaders haven’t figured out that they cannot base their power on keeping an entire part of the population down, then they’re going to continue to be way behind the curve of history and they will not be able to sustain their power throughout this century. I totally believe that – people want freedom. They know what it is – they see it and feel it and hear it and taste it every day and as long as the West can at least provide a flawed example of what is possible, this century will see regimes like the one in Iran in trouble.
    Women have the power – and they know it. And when they use it – watch out. We are impossible to stop, really. We haven’t really been stopped yet and we won’t be.

  • Rhodo Zeb

    Excellent, wonderful pirouette.
    She is iconic, from what I have read. And she is the X factor.
    Great pic, and good choice.

  • Kulinarisk

    She looks tired of the bloody mess Iran has become under religious rule

  • johanna

    Is everyone here okay and cool with Obama’s response to these unusual events, thus far??

  • ivyleaves

    I believe it is “hijab” not “hajib”

  • Michael Shaw (The BAG)


  • ivyleaves

    You’re welcome. (Also you missed the second use of the word – oops!)

  • yg

    watching pbs and bbc, i caught bits and pieces of her speaking at a couple of rallies. at one press conference, she spoke a couple of lines of english!
    she does this thing where she holds a rose next to her mouth when speaking. haven’t run across anything to explain the meaning of that.

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