• Wednesday 21st April 2021

Iranian City Picks Islamic Republic’s First Female Minority Ethnic Mayor

After finishing a master’s degree in natural resources, she made the rare decision for a young woman enjoying Tehran’s freer society to return to her home town and campaign to become mayor.

Iranian city picks Islamic republic’s first female minority ethnic mayor

Choice of Samieh Baluchzehi, a 26-year-old from Baluch minority, is even more notable as she is a Sunni Muslim in Shia-dominated Iran

Samieh Baluchzehi left her home town to study in Tehran but then made the rare decision to return to campaign for mayor. Photograph: Saeed Kamali Dehghan

A woman belonging to

Iran’s Baluch ethnic group has been chosen as the mayor of a provincial city, in a rare example of a minority politician being promoted in the Islamic republic.

Samieh Baluchzehi, 26, has become the mayor of Kalat in the southern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, where women often face

gender descrimination in their social and private lives.

Although women have previously been mayors in the Islamic republic, it is unprecedented for an Iranian minority woman to lead a city such as Kalat, situated in one of the country’s most impoverished provinces. Her appointment is even more notable as she is a Sunni Muslim in a Shia-dominated country.

Baluchzehi, who is unmarried, comes from a family of eight in the nearby Sarbaz area but moved to the capital, Tehran, to continue her studies. After finishing a master’s degree in natural resources, she made the rare decision for a young woman enjoying Tehran’s freer society to return to her home town and campaign to become mayor.

On Thursday Shargh, a prominent reformist newspaper, featured the mayor in hijab and wearing makeup on its front page. “I’m a Baluchi woman who has broken the spell over women in management positions,” she said in an interview with Shargh, which described her as someone “who has broken the red lines”.

The five members of the city council in Kalat, which has a population of 1,200, unanimously voted for their first ever female mayor and the country’s first ever female minority mayor.

“I decided to become mayor … because I didn’t want the next generations to face the sort of shortcomings that I dealt with myself,” she said. “Our city has nothing. I don’t want my nephews and nieces or the children of our city to be brought up in a city without parks … I want men and women to be able to walk freely in our city.”


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