A prominent Iranian cleric has called on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to intervene in the case of a reformist lawmaker who has been barred from taking her seat in parliament after photos published on social media reportedly showed her not wearing a hijab.
In an open letter posted May 11, Ahmad Montazeri called the disqualification of Minoo Khaleghi by the powerful Guardian Council illegal and a “big insult to the Iranian nation, particularly to the informed and vigilant people of Isfahan.”
One of 18 women elected to the 290-seat parliament, Khaleghi won election in February in the district of Isfahan where Montazeri is based.
“One of your duties is to protect and preserve the honor of the [Iranian] establishment,” Montazeri wrote to Khamenei.
By allowing Khaleghi to be sworn in and serve in the new parliament, “the damage to the clerical establishment will be largely undone,” he wrote.
Montazeri’s late father Grand-Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri was known as the spiritual leader of Iran’s opposition movement, and he retains wide popularity among many Iranians.
The Guardian Council disqualified Khaleghi from taking her seat after photos were reportedly published on the social media app Telegram that showed her in public in Europe and in China not wearing the headscarf that is compulsory in Iran.
Khaleghi, who could not be reached for comment, has said that the photos are fake.
Iranian law requires women to cover their hair and body in public.
The Guardian Council, which previously had vetted and approved Khaleghi to run for parliament, has not explained its decision publicly. The powerful hardline body has informed Khaleghi of the reasons for her disqualification and provided her with evidence.
Reformists have claimed that the case is politically motivated and warned that disqualifying her after being initially allowing her to run sets a dangerous precedent. Isfahan’s reformist front said it was a “rare and unacceptable decision by the Guardian Council.”
The Interior Ministry has said parliament should be making such decisions, not the Guardian Council.
Media reported last week that Khaleghi’s case has been referred to the Dispute Settlement Committee of Branches, which is supposed to report to Khamenei.On May 11, hardline news agencies reported that the committee had accepted the decision by the Guardian Council to bar Khaleghi from parliament.
But the New York Times reported that Khaleghi and her allies were hopeful that Khamenei would step in and reinstate her.
“There is a small chance she might be qualified,” Farshad Ghorbanpour, a political analyst close to the government, told the newspaper.
President Hassan Rohani also appeared to support Khaleghi, saying in comments published on May 1 that the election of 18 women was a record and that they should be congratulated.