Iranian women seeking to run in the presidential election next month have been told they are not allowed to take part.
The remark by a member of Iran’s constitutional watchdog group effectively kills the largely symbolic bids by about 30 women seeking to run in the June 14 election.
Even before the comments by Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, chances for a woman candidate in Iran’s presidential election were considered nearly impossible.
Women also have registered as potential candidates in past presidential elections, but the group that vets hopefuls appears to follow interpretations of the constitution that suggest only a man may hold Iran’s highest elected office. Women, however, are cleared to run for Iran’s parliament and have served as MPs.
Mr Yazdi told a news agency the “law does not approve” of a woman in the presidency and a woman on the ballot is “not allowed.”
The Guardian Council, where Mr Yazdi is a member, vets all candidates for the presidency and parliament. A total of 686 people have registered to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who cannot run for a third mandate because of term limits.
The final list will be announced on Tuesday, with only a handful of names expected on the ballot.
While women have greater freedom in Iran than many other countries in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia and neighbouring Afghanistan, it is widely believed that the wording of the constitution closes the door on the presidency.
It says the president will be elected from religious-political men, or “rijal,” a plural for man in Arabic that is common in Farsi, too.
Presumed candidates include former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is backed by pro-reform groups, and rivals supported by the ruling clerics such as top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati.
A major question is whether the Guardian Council will clear Mr Ahmadinejad’s choice, close aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. His chances are severely hampered by his association with Mr Ahmadinejad, who has fallen out of favour with the ruling theocracy over his challenges to the authority of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.