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Marzieh Afkham

Marzieh Afkham, who is the country’s first foreign ministry spokeswoman, will head a mission in east Asia, the state news agency reported. It is not clear to which country she will be posted as her appointment has yet to be announced officially.

Afkham will only be the second female ambassador Iran has had. Under the last shah’s rule, Mehrangiz Dolatshahi, a three-time MP known for her advocacy of the family protection law, which gave women the right of divorce and child custody, became an ambassador to Denmark in 1976, a post she held until the revolution.

Women in Iran need the permission of their husband or legal custodian, such as their father, to travel abroad. The government is also reluctant to promote women who are single and not married. Afkham was reported to have married last year.

Rouhani said this week that he saw it as his government’s duty to create equal opportunities for women and spoke against crackdowns by the religious police on women who push the boundaries of the mandatory hijab by showing their hair. But a decision to overturn discriminatory practices is not solely in his hands.

Gissou Nia, deputy director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), a leading rights group based in New York, hailed Afkham’s appointment on Tuesday.

“This is certainly welcome news for women in Iran,?Nia told the Guardian. “It is a positive step that the appointment has been made; we haven’t had a female ambassador since the 1970s but it doesn’t alleviate the ongoing concerns about pending legislation in the Iranian parliament that seeks to restrict women’s role in the public sphere.?

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