Rouhani angers reformists with all-male cabinet

Iranian President presents new cabinet, criticized by reformists.

Ben Ariel ,

Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday put forward a new cabinet that was immediately criticized by reformists for its lack of women or young people, AFP reported.

The ministerial line-up, which must still be approved by parliament, also lacked minorities and actually increased the average age compared to Rouhani's first term, according to the report.

"The lack of women ministers shows we are treading water," Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, Rouhani's outgoing vice president for women's affairs, told the Etamad daily after news of the line-up was leaked.

Many Iranians criticized the new cabinet on social media, saying Rouhani had failed to keep his campaign promises of greater diversity.

There were few major changes in the cabinet, with the key figures in Iran's efforts to rebuild ties with the West — Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh — retaining their positions, noted AFP.

The one surprise was the appointment of Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, a 35-year-old engineer and by far the youngest addition, who is set to take over as telecoms minister.

But even with his appointment, which puts an opponent of censorship at the heart of government, the average age of the cabinet remains at 58.

Sunnis, who make up around 10 percent of the Shiite-majority nation, were also left out of the new government.

Rouhani replaced the defense minister, Major General Hossein Dehghan, with his deputy, General Amir Hatami, marking the first time in more than two decades that the post has been filled by someone from the regular army rather than the elite Revolutionary Guards.

Rouhani, who won the presidential election in 2013, was reelected to a second term in May, largely thanks to the backing of the country’s reformists.

Over the past week, the expected lack of women has been a focus of criticism by reformists, who say Rouhani is likely bowing to pressure from the religious establishment, according to AFP.

In his first term, Rouhani had three women among his large cohort of vice presidents, who do not require parliamentary approval.

Rouhani has been touted by the West as a “moderate” but under his presidency, Iran has set new records in the number of executions, many for political or religious "crimes". He has also done little in the way of freeing reformist political leaders who were jailed after protesting the 2009 election.

Despite his conciliatory messages ahead of the election, Rouhani has in the past called Israel “illegitimate” and lamented that the crisis in Syria has made it difficult for Iran to focus on harming Israel.