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State Dept. Spokeswoman Refuses to Criticize Iran for Excluding Women Candidates from Election

“We want this [election] to be free and fair. There’s a lot of ways to, of course, define that.”

2:01 PM, May 20, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to criticize Iran for excluding women candidates from the upcoming "election" there. The remarkable exchange, which concludes with Psaki saying this (“We want this [election] to be free and fair. There’s a lot of ways to, of course, define that.”) happened at Friday's press briefing.

QUESTION:Jen, can I change the subject? It would seem that in Iran the Guardians Council, which is vetting the candidates for the upcoming elections next month, have decided and have ruled that women cannot contest, they cannot stand as candidates. I wondered what the United States reaction is to that, considering that 50 person of the population in Iran is women – are women.

MS. PSAKI:Well, we don’t take positions on any candidates, as you know, and we hope that the upcoming elections will be free, fair, and transparent and will represent the will of the Iranian people. So we wouldn’t weight into decisions made by the government. Of course, broadly, we hope that women around the world participate in politics and elected office, but beyond that I don’t think I have anything specific for you.

QUESTION:Taking the word “fair” – if you’re being fair, it would seem to exclude 50 percent of the population from an election, would already mean that it is not a fair election.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t weigh in on to the candidates and the candidates that are chosen through the process in Iran. Of course, of course, broadly speaking we do want women to participate in elections around the world and rise up in elected office.

QUESTION:Just not in Iran?

MS. PSAKI:

 I’m not suggesting that, Arshad. I’m just suggesting that we leave it to the process that happens in Iran for them to pick their candidates.

QUESTION: But I mean why – it seems astounding that this Department – I mean, what if they decided to exclude, as this country once did, not merely women but black people? Would that be acceptable to you? That’s just their choice; they do it any way they want and you’re not going to stand up for democratic rights?

MS. PSAKI: I think we pretty broadly stand up for democratic rights from this building.

QUESTION: Just not for Iranian women, apparently.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I was conveying. I think there are two separate issues here. Of course, we want women to participate in processes around the world, whether that is participating in voting or being elected to office. Of course. More specifically, in terms of how candidates are selected, we don’t weigh in on specific candidates, of course, as the Government of Iran is picking them. But broadly, yes, we would like women to be participating at every level.

QUESTION: Including in Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Including around the world.

QUESTION: But – no but --

QUESTION: This is not a process. This is a clear case of gender discrimination, no? Isn’t that a difference between a vetting procedure and just saying, “All women no”? I mean, you’ve got to take a stand on something like that.

MS. PSAKI: Again, Brad, I think I made pretty clear – I don’t know that I have much more to add – that of course we have long supported women being elected to office in the United States and around the world and participating in the process. We want this to be free and fair. There’s a lot of ways to, of course, define that. But again, we don’t select or play a role in selecting who the candidates are. We can take a look through the process, and happy to comment once it’s completed.

Psaki is a veteran of the Obama campaign.

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