LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Iran’s foreign ministry has appointed its first spokeswoman, a career diplomat who has worked at the ministry for nearly three decades, according to media reports.
Marzieh Afkham has been director of the ministry’s media and public diplomacy department since 2010, reports said.
“She is seasoned and experienced in the field of media diplomacy,” incumbent spokesman Seyed Abbas Araqchi was quoted as telling ISNA news agency when announcing the appointment.
He cited her experience as the reason for her appointment, fending off criticism from ultra-conservative members of parliament.
Hojatoleslam Morteza Hosseini, a cleric from an influential religious faction, told the local press the clergy “might be opposed” to a woman taking up such a post.
“We decided to deliver a caution to Foreign Minister (Mohammad Javad Zarif), so that he appoints a man instead of a woman” as his spokesman, he was quoted as saying by the 7 Sobh daily, the French news agency AFP reported.
Afkham’s appointment comes two days after Araqchi said the Islamic Republic would also soon appoint its first female ambassador since it was established in 1979.
President Hassan Rouhani, the moderate cleric who succeeded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month, is reported to have pledged to give women more prominent roles in public life, and promised during his election campaign that “discrimination against women will not be tolerated” in his administration.