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Iranian Says Women Making Gains

March 18, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s adviser on women’s affairs sought today to depict a rising tide of moderation in the country, particularly in the way women are treated.

Zahra Shojaie, who is in the United States to attend U.N. sessions, said ``women are by no means a passive part of society″ in the Islamic republic.

Describing this period as a post-revolutionary era, she said at a conference sponsored by Insight, a Middle East magazine, that ``we are aware of certain obstacles.″

But she said women are making strides, accounting for 31 percent of university students. There are 70 magazines and other publications for women, she said, and ``there is no censorship in effect.″

``Diversity of opinion is a driving force″ in Iran, she said.

The State Department, in its annual report to Congress on human rights, said candidates for elective office in Iran have been threatened for their political beliefs and several prominent dissidents have been killed.

On women, the report said they had access to primary and advanced education, but social and legal constraints tend to inhibit their professional opportunities, women are harassed over the way they are dressed and the testimony of a woman is worth only half of a man’s in court.

The State Department, on the other hand, has frequently found Khatami to be a force for moderation, and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said at the session that he would like to see more frequent exchanges of visits between the two countries.

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