Iranian vice president faces calls to resign over claims she shook hands with male politician

Backlash threatens already fragile relations between Iran and Germany

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The Independent Online

Iranians have called for their vice president to stand down after it was wrongly claimed she had shaken hands with a male politician.

State broadcasters indicated Masoumeh Ebtekar had shaken hands with a male minister at a meeting, triggering a furore.

Instead, she met German female environment minister, Barbara Hendriks, who was wearing a suit and had short hair.

Iran prohibits a religious woman from touching a man she does not know.

Press in the country had reported Ms Hendricks was a woman who “looks like a man”.

Sadegh Ghorbani, a Tehran- based journalist tweeted:“This handshake [created an] uproar for [a] few hours in conservative media & social network pages. They thought the #Germanminister is a man. #Iran.”

The backlash against Ms Ebtekar ignited an already controversial meeting, since Ms Hendricks had faced criticism at home for associating with a “terrorist”.

Ms Ebtekar became well-known in the West in 1979 when she was the spokeswoman for the Iranian students who stormed the US embassy and took 52 diplomats hostage.

Christian Democratic Union MP Thomas Feist told German tabloid Bild Ms Ebtekar “does not stand for a changing Iran. We should be more careful in choosing political partners.”

Following the completion of nuclear talks with Iran in January, sanctions against Iran have been lifted and it has once more become connected with the global economy.

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The German-Iranian meeting was further undermined by criticism of Iran’s record on homophobia.

Ms Hendricks, who announced she was gay in 2013, is the first lesbian in German history to serve as a federal minister.

Stop the Bomb, an organisation that seeks to end Iran’s nuclear program tweeted: “Disgraceful: Lesbian German minister happily signed deals with regime of Iran that executes homosexuals.”

Under Iran’s regime, homosexuality is punishable by death. According to a 2008 British WikiLeaks dispatch, Iran has executed at least 4,000 gay people since it was founded as an Islamic Republic in 1979.

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Women's rights in Iran are also severely restricted, according to Human Rights Watch, with strict modesty laws in place.

Recent campaigns against women cycling in the country have gained international attention.

Ms Ebtekar, a prominent reformist figure, became Iran’s first female vice-president when she previously served in the same office from 1997 to 2005.