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Female Reformist MP raises eyebrows with fiery speech in Iranian parliament

An Iranian Reformist lawmaker has proposed that referendums be held on disputed matters to save the country from the major crises it is facing.

Parvaneh Salahshouri is a Reformist parliament member and a member of the Iranian parliament's Hope faction, which has been a staunch supporter of moderate President Hassan Rouhani and his policies. But Iran's fresh challenges, both economically and politically on a daily basis, are making critical voices louder from every side these days.

The outspoken female parliament member made a fiery speech during a Sept. 4 speech on the parliament floor, lashing out at state failures and calling for referendums on key issues. Salahshouri criticized Rouhani for not offering convincing answers to questions during a meeting with parliamentarians on the country's economic situation last week.

She elucidated a long list of woes the country is facing, ranging from inflation, poverty and unemployment, to corruption within the judiciary and the poor performance of the state broadcaster. She even had a thing or two to say about the powerful conservative clerical community. "I wanted to seek their help. But I found that instead of being worried about poverty and corruption, what matters to them most is [trivial issues such as] young girls' cycling and the hair sticking out of their scarves."

Salahshouri noted that she is not addressing her questions to state institutions, which — according to her — have disappointed the nation. She stressed that under the current circumstances the only way out of the multiple crises is the supreme leader's direct intervention and help. 

Reformist daily Ghanoon described Salahshouri as the "flag bearer of hope," calling her speech the best-ever moment in the incumbent parliament. "Unlike the president, who either keeps silent or seeks the root causes [to address issues] outside Iranian borders, she took a realistic approach," the paper wrote. It admired her for the strategies she offered to tackle the crises that are "putting the biggest burdens on the shoulders of the vulnerable layers of society."

Salahshouri's speech was not just about the economy. She touched upon social maladies, the lack of freedoms and the crackdown on activists, which she said has become a daily routine. She criticized Rouhani for denying that Iran is in a state of crisis. "Mr. President, for now we are facing ‘super challenges’ and everyone knows this."

Salahshouri proposed that referendums be held on matters of dispute, such as the Guardian Council's controversial vetting of candidates for parliament and the presidency, so that the country can "pass safely through the historical turn and public trust and unity are restored." She also offered a 13-point list of solutions, among them the release of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under house arrest since early 2011.

Hamdeli, another Reformist daily, said Salahshouri "made history" with one of the most pointed remarks ever delivered by a female lawmaker. The paper stressed that due to the complicated nature of the current problems, without the supreme leader's intervention the situation will only be further protracted.

Debates have been ongoing on social media since the Reformist lawmaker delivered the remarks. On her official Twitter page, over 1,400 comments poured in below a tweet she posted after her remarks before parliament. "My speech did not appease some of the lawmakers and made them react with a harsh discourse," she wrote, sparking a heated exchange of views in the comments section, with one user writing, "May God never forgive people like you, who win their bread from the Islamic Republic but repeat the words uttered by the enemy's TV channels. Isn't that enough proof that you are but a hypocrite?"

While many admired Salahshouri's "courage," others were disappointed that such speeches lack a touch of reality. One person tweeted, "Mrs. Salahshouri, the dollar rate has passed the 140,000-rial mark and yet you raise the idea of referendums to cover up the government's failures. … I think if to be held, any such referendum must be on pro-Western opportunists like you and whether you should ever hold authority."

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