Surprising candor fills conversation about the changing role of women in Iran
(Aug. 9, 2004) GENEVA, N.Y.– Bahar Davary, assistant professor of religious studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges spoke with the Iranian President Mohammad Khatami about the state of women in Iran, as well as the relation between religion and state and of Islam and democracy .
In a 45-minute personal interview in his office in Tehran, Khatami opposed mandatory hijab, (the Islamic dress code which dictates that women's hair and bodies must be covered in public). He also spoke openly about the supreme role of the jurist as the head of state. He has reservations about the rule of the jurisprudence.
Davary, who teaches courses at HWS on religions of the world, Islam, government, politics and Islam, is researching the role of women in Iran. She was granted an audience with the President of Iran in May.
“President Khatami was warm and welcoming,” Davary says. “I was surprised that he opened our discussion with criticism of the rule of the jurist, “Velayate Faqih”. I thought he would beat around the bush.”
His views on the mandatory hijab were most interesting. While he may personally believe that the veiling of women is recommended in the Qur'an he believes that to force the Iranian women to veil is to encourage deceit, and that it puts women who do not wish to veil in the difficult position of living a lie.
Khatami's leadership is of interest to Davary and pertinent to her research. Under his leadership, the country appointed its first woman to the post of vice president and established a council for a women's movement. Eventually Davary will write a paper on civil society and the rule of the jurist using the information. Khatami has agreed to continue their discussion.
Davary joined the Hobart and William Smith faculty in 2000. She holds a Ph.D. from Catholic University of America and a master's and a bachelor's degree from the University of Tehran.
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