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Middle East

City council candidate 'too attractive' for Iranian politics

Nina Siahkali Moradi, 27, was barred from taking up her seat in Qazvin by the conservative electoral review board

An electoral candidate who won a place on a city council in Iran has reportedly been barred from taking up the seat because she is too attractive.

During the polls in the city of Qazvin, 27-year-old Nina Siahkali Moradi received 10,000 votes, placing her 14th out of 163 candidates.

She was named as an “alternate member of the Council” – in effect, the first reserve. But when one of those ranked above her was selected as mayor and gave up his seat, Ms Moradi was disqualified and prevented from filling the vacancy.

A senior official in Qazvin was quoted in the Times to have explained the decision by saying: “We don’t want a catwalk model on the council.”

Ms Moradi is a graduate student of architecture, and with the help of her friends ran a visually impressive and high profile election campaign.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said that the disqualification was apparently because of her “non-observance of Islamic codes”, and reported suggestions that her election campaign posters were the basis for complaints from senior conservative rivals.

“Almost 10,000 people voted for me and based on that I should be the first alternate member of the City Council,” Ms Moradi told local media. The electoral review board, comprised of elder conservatives, disagreed.

Seyed Reza Hossaini, Qazvin’s representative in Parliament and a review board member, told the news agency IranWire: “Her votes have been nullified due to her disqualification, as the review board did not approve her credentials. We have told her the reason why she has been disqualified.”

But when asked about the review board's decision, Ms Moradi said they had not spoken to her.

Those who opposed Ms Moradi's candidacy say that she was only elected because of her beauty and youth, and there were reportedly complaints prior to polls that the behaviour of her supporters was not in keeping with the traditions of conservative Islam.

Nevertheless, and despite her calls for change under the slogan “Young Ideas for a Young Future”, Ms Moradi’s candidacy had been vetted and approved by Iran’s judiciary and intelligence services.

Mohammed Olaiyehfard, a legal expert in Qazvin, put this supposedly illegal contradiction in context: “If someone breaks the law during the election, the review board and election committee can review the individual’s actions. But when the results have been announced, they cannot nullify the results.

“For this reason, it is illegal for the election review board to disqualify someone who had initially been qualified to run and then later won the election. It seems that this is a pretext in order to create an obstacle in order for this individual to not be able to join the Qazvin City Council.”

The controversy comes as the country’s new President Hassan Rowhani vowed to bring about sweeping changes to the observation of civil rights in Iran.

He has promised to back increased participation by women in Iranian society, and appointed a female vice-president for legal affairs.

In a television debate during the run-up to the Presidential election, Mr Rowhani said: “Women work but don’t enjoy equal rights. I will form a women’s affairs ministry to return their trampled rights to them.”