The two directives, on which the conversation unfolded yesterday in the Vatican between Iranian Vice-President Shahindokht Molaverdi and Pope Francis, were the “defense of the traditional values of the family” and the promotion of women’s role in society and in international politics.
Teheran’s representative, a jurist responsible for the Women’s Affairs and the Family in her government, was accompanied at the meeting by a delegation solely comprised of women, an event that has never occurred before in the history of their bilateral relations. At the end of the visit to the Pontiff, Molaverdi held a press conference, together with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family (who invited the Iranian Vice-President to the Vatican), where they described the conversations as “very profitable.”
One of the subjects on which the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran assume a common position, is that regarding the anthropological question. Archbishop Paglia spoke of a “common commitment” against artificial methods of procreation, such as surrogacy, and against ideologies that weaken the masculine and feminine identity.The “throwaway culture” often mentioned by Pope Francis is another subject on which their common attention was focused on. From this point, they objected to the scourge of abortion, which every year kills an estimated 44 million unborn babies in the world. “To walk together is more effective than to go alone. The defense of the family is a global challenge,” said the Iranian Vice-President.
From a global standpoint, Molaverdi then went on to analyze the local reality. In regard to the role of women in politics and society, she explained that, in Iran, “great steps forward were taken by the Revolution of 1979, but the road ahead is still long.” The Iranian Vice-President stressed that, in the field of education, equality is complete, given that 60% of the university population is made up of women. However, she also noted that in other sectors, such as politics, equality still has a way to go.
In this connection, she said that the question “is very present in the current government,” so much so that a law is already in force to increase the presence of women in the professional field, and that thought is being given to implement a similar norm – a sort of “rose quota” to increase the number of deputies in the Iranian Parliament. In any case, today there are five women governors in as many Iranian regions. Molaverdi said that the “Pontiff is convinced that if there were more women in decision-making centers, we would live in a world with fewer tensions and fewer crisis.”
Tensions and crises, especially those due to extremism, were another argument at the center of the conversations. There was talk of Boko Haram in Nigeria and of ISIS in the Middle East, for instance, and the need was stressed of collaboration between Iran and the Holy See to stem “abuses to women and children” and “violence in the name of religion.” The Pope described killing in the name of a faith as “unacceptable”, and he also affirmed that one cannot provoke another’s religious sensibility.
Regarding the Holy Father, the Iranian Vice-President mentioned his “role, will and ability” to “bring peoples together, to promote dialogue and thus bring Governments closer.” She cited his crucial role in the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. When asked whether the Holy Father could take on a similar role in relations between Washington, D.C. and Tehran, she replied: “Personally, I am optimistic about the prospects of relations between the United States and Iran,” replied the Vice-President. “Therefore, let’s not disturb the Pope …
Finally, Molaverdi also talked about the nuclear issue, perhaps the greatest thorn in diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran. She stressed that the theory of an agreement is possible only when “the unjust and inhuman sanctions against Iran are lifted.”