Mousavi wife leads fight against election defeat
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of Mirhossein Mousavi, broke with convention to campaign by his side and she is now battling shoulder to shoulder with Iran's opposition leader to overturn his presidential election defeat.
A striking figure in black chador and floral headscarf, Rahnavard promised to help ease restrictions on women and promote greater freedom in the conservative Islamic Republic.
She was thrust further into the spotlight during the election campaign when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the middle of a bitter televised debate, waved what looked like a file on Rahnavard in front of the cameras and accused her of falsely obtaining academic qualifications.
The first woman to be chancellor of a university since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution accused Ahmadinejad of trying to hold back the progress of Iranian women and threatened to sue him unless he apologized.
She showed that same fighting spirit Wednesday in a statement on her husband's website, in which she called on authorities to release immediately Iranians detained at protests against the results of the June 12 election.
"It is my duty to continue legal protests to preserve the nation's rights," Rahnavard was quoted by the website as saying.
"NO MICHELLE OBAMA"
Rahnavard, 64, was the chancellor of Al Zahra Women's University. She holds a doctorate in political science and has championed greater freedoms for women.
She is also a well-known artist and her sculptures are displayed in several Tehran squares.
Her high profile in Mousavi's campaign helped boost his low political profile since he served as prime minister in the 1980s and is thought to have swung the support of many women and some younger voters behind his presidential bid.
Other women have played a role in the protests following the June 12 vote which, according to official results, was resoundingly won by Ahmadinejad. The daughter of powerful cleric and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Faezeh was briefly detained after unauthorized protests Saturday.
In the days leading up to the election, some supporters of Rahnavard hoped she might emerge as a pioneering 'First Lady' of the Islamic Republic if Mousavi was elected.
"I am not Michelle Obama. I am Zahra Rahnavard," the professor told a news conference earlier this month. "But I do respect all women activists wherever they are in the world."
(Writing by Dominic Evans; editing by Robert Woodward)
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