Since becoming president in 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become one of the most widely known Iranian politicians. In direct contrast, his wife has been one of the most discreet spouses in Iranian political history. The world got its first glimpse of her in 2005, after she accompanied her husband on a trip to Malaysia. However, she did not speak any words and has hardly ever appeared in front of cameras since then. What was even more mysterious was her identity. She was only referred to as Mrs. Ahmadinejad in the very few reports which mentioned her. Her real identity was strongly protected.
But on January 18, 2009, the world suddenly met Azam Al Sadat Farahi, who until that day was known as Mrs. Ahmadinejad. The encounter was brought about by a letter she wrote on behalf of Gazans to Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In it she wrote:
The people of Gaza have been subjected to aerial, ground and sea attacks and have been living under siege for a long time. Witnessing the bombardment of mosques, hospitals and houses and the mutilation of women and children brings pain to the heart of any human being. …I ask you to do whatever is in your capacity to help the people of Gaza and to help them from the oppression that they are suffering from, so that your name is placed alongside the name of worthy and peace seeking women.
One could doubt whether Mrs. Ahmadinejad’s letter would have any impact, because these days Egypt is trying its best to isolate Iran. This was seen by the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on several occasions asked for Mubarak’s help. Nothing ever came of it.
Nevertheless, the symbolic value of the letter should not be ignored. Many people around the world believe that Iranian women, especially conservative ones, are confined to the boundaries of the kitchen. This may be true about wives of conservative clergy. However when it comes to non-clergy conservatives, the opposite is true. Quite a few are very vociferous in their political thinking and beliefs.