October 14, 2016
Iran’s hardliners have found yet another prominent reformist violating one of the great revolutionary strictures—the ban on shaking hands with a member of the other gender.
This time it is Masumeh Ebtekar, the vice president in charge of Iran’s Environmental Protection Agency, but best known in the West as “Mary,” the English language spokesperson for the students who seized the US embassy back in 1979.
It seems that Ebtekar was in Germany last week to discuss environmental issues and was photographed shaking hands with a German man, the environmental minister.
A number of hardliners, who will not allow a Reformist to scratch an itch without being subject to criticism, went into attack mode, demanding that Ebtekar be fired for violating the revolutionary code of conduct.
And it is true that Ebtekar did shake hands with the minister. But the minister, Barbara Hendricks, is a woman. She has short hair and a not very feminine appearance and was wearing a pantsuit for the meeting with Ebtekar. But she is and has always been a woman.
The Tasnim news agency, in correcting the mistake made by many in Iran, wrote, “Hendricks is a woman, though in the television footage she looks like a man.”
The handshake controversy, however, did not end there. Soon, Hendricks, 64, was criticized by Germans for shaking Ebtekar’s hand.
German Member of Parliament Thomas Feist, a member of the Christian Democrats and therefore a partner with Hendricks, a Social Democrat, in Germany’s governing coalition, criticized Hendricks for the public show of cooperation.
“Ms. Ebtekar does not stand for a changing Iran,” he told the German newspaper Bild Zeitung. “We should be more careful in picking political partners.”
The newspaper was more blunt. The headline on one article about the meeting was: “Godmother of terror a guest in Berlin.” And the article went on to ask: “Why is the federal government wining and dining a terrorist?”
The newspaper noted that in 1979 Ebtekar told the media she was personally prepared to pick up a gun and kill a hostage.