Elected Politician Banned from Taking Office in Iran for being too Attractive

Sunday, August 18, 2013
Nina Siahkali Moradi

From Iowa to Iran, some men in the early 21st Century are using their feelings of sexual attraction for good-looking women as a justification for discriminating against them—and getting away with it. Last December, for example, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a dentist who fired Melissa Nelson after ten years of employment because he felt attracted to her did not commit sex discrimination.


Now, halfway around the world in Iran, a female candidate for city council in Qazvin (pop.: 572,916), has been barred from taking her seat because she is too attractive. During recent elections, 27-year-old Nina Siahkali Moradi won 10,000 votes (14th out of 163 candidates), making her an “alternate member of the Council”–the first reserve in case someone resigned. But when that did happen—a more senior Council member was elected mayor and gave up his seat—a local electoral review board denied Moradi her seat.


A senior official in Qazvin—displaying an unusual knowledge of the world of fashion modeling—was quoted as saying: “We don’t want a catwalk model on the council.”


An architecture graduate student at Qazvin’s Azad University, where she also studies calligraphy and martial arts, Moradi’s candidacy—like all candidacies in Iran—was vetted and approved by Iran’s conservative judiciary and intelligence services. She ran a visually striking campaign with the slogan “Young Ideas for a Young Future,” attracting strong support from younger voters—and disdain from conservative older male candidates who complained that her campaign was “not observing the Islamic norms.”


The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that conservative rivals had complained of what they called Moradi’s “vulgar and anti-religious” campaign posters.


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 Moradi denied that. “Almost 10,000 people voted for me and based on that I should be the first alternate member of the City Council,” she said, adding that “I have no information as to why they did this, you need to ask them.” 


Qazvin legal expert Mohammed Olaiyehfard told The Independent that the election review board’s action was unlawful: “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 arose as Iran’s new President, Hassan Rowhani, promised to strengthen civil rights, especially for women. Rowhani, who recently appointed a female vice-president for legal affairs, said in a televised campaign debate that, “Women work but don’t enjoy equal rights. I will form a women’s affairs ministry to return their trampled rights to them.”


Qazvin officials also reportedly detained and questioned two other female candidates, Maryam Nakhostin-Ahmadi and Shahla Atefeh, confiscating their campaign posters as well.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

City Council Candidate 'Too Attractive' for Iranian Politics (by Adam Withnall, The Independent)

Too Sexy for Politics? Iranian Woman Ousted from Office for her ‘Model’ Looks (by Carol Kuruvilla, New York Daily News)

Too Pretty To Be A Councillor (by Hamid Mafi, Iran Wire)

Iowa Supreme Court Reopens Case of Woman Fired for being too Attractive (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


FBI Employee Sues over Attractiveness Discrimination (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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