Iran's Ahmadinejad sacks only female government minister

DUBAI Thu Dec 27, 2012 2:37pm EST

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran. Health Minister Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi speaks to lawmakers in parliament in Tehran in this file photo taken September 1, 2009. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran. Health Minister Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi speaks to lawmakers in parliament in Tehran in this file photo taken September 1, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday dismissed his only female cabinet minister, Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, after she criticized her colleagues for failing to provide funds to import vital medicines.

Appointed in 2009, Dastjerdi was the first woman government minister since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979. While seen as politically conservative, the gynecologist has advocated a greater role for women in society.

Reports have emerged in recent weeks of shortages of some critical medicines for treatment of cancer, multiple sclerosis, blood disorders and other serious conditions.

Last month, Dastjerdi said only a quarter of the $2.4 billion earmarked for medicine imports had been provided in the current year and there was a shortage of foreign currency for the shipments.

"Medicine is more essential than bread. I have heard that luxury cars have been imported with subsidized dollars but I don't know what happened to the dollars that were supposed to be allocated for importing medicine," she said on state television.

Iranian officials blame the shortages on sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. The government has come under heavy criticism itself for failing to manage the needs of Iranians properly.

Ahmadinejad's political rivals accuse him of exacerbating the effects of sanctions through poor management and cronyism.

In a short statement, he announced the interim appointment of Mohammad Hassan Tariqat Monfared as head of the ministry, replacing Dastjerdi.

"Noting your commitment and valuable experience and based on the ... constitution, I appoint you as the caretaker health minister," read the statement published widely across Iranian media.

Dastjerdi's dismissal was criticized in parliament, where Ahmadinejad has been accused of concentrating power in his own hands.

"Although the president has the authority to sack the health minister, the move was not wise and doesn't have acceptable logic," the head of parliament's health committee, Hosseinali Shahriari, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

"The dismissal of the health minister was caused by nothing but ... personal issues. I hope the president has the courage to explain why he made this change," Fars quoted Shahriari as saying.

(Reporting by Marcus George and Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by William Maclean and Tom Pfeiffer)

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Comments (3)
americanguy wrote:
Guess the woman was not insane enough for the position.

Dec 28, 2012 7:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
matthewslyman wrote:
Sacked for telling the truth. In a perverse sort of way, Iran’s extremists have a political interest in making sure “the sanctions” hurt ordinary Iranians; even if there’s plenty of space in the sanctions rĂ©gime for importing medicine. Unless the truth is fully confronted internally within Iran; Iran is becoming the new Iraq…

Dec 28, 2012 9:22am EST  --  Report as abuse
AlkalineState wrote:
Hey, the Muslim world is improving. This is a woman in a Muslim country and the men did not throw rocks at her, or shoot her in the face.

Baby steps.

Dec 28, 2012 3:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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