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Iranian Women Want Right to Run for President

Iranian women campaigning for a constitutional amendment to give them the right to run in presidential elections said Monday the change was essential if women were to enjoy equal opportunity.

"The law needs an update after a quarter century of legislation. Without the amendment women will not have equal opportunity in other fields," said women's rights activist Fariba Davoodi (search).

Women in Iran can drive, vote and stand for parliamentary elections and public posts, but not for president.

Iran's Guardian Council (search), a hard-line constitutional watchdog, bars women from running on the basis of a controversial interpretation. The constitution says the president must be elected from among political "rijal" — an Arabic word that literally means "men" but can be interpreted simply as political personalities regardless of their gender.

On Sunday, hundreds of Iranian women demonstrated in Tehran (search) to demand equal rights. Iranian women have held several protests in the past, and Mohajer said the peaceful demonstrations would continue.

"Under the constitution, peaceful gathering is permitted so our gathering was not illegal," Mohajer said. She said some policemen had kicked the women at the beginning of the gathering before backing off.

In February, a United Nations human rights report said women faced regular abuse in Iran. The report said Iranian authorities were doing to little to protect the victims and urged sweeping legal reforms.

The report added that discriminatory laws and unreliable justice resulted in impunity for perpetrators and perpetuated discrimination and violence against women.