Iran will appoint its first female ambassador abroad since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the semi-official Fars and Mehr news agencies said late on Monday, citing unspecified reports, Marzieh Afkham, the incumbent spokeswoman for the foreign ministry, will leave Tehran next month to serve as ambassador to Malaysia, Xinhua news agency quoted the report as saying.
The post would go to Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, one of Iran’s most high-profile female public figures, the second female ambassador in the history of Iran and the first since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The only other female ambassador was Mehrangiz Dolatshahi, who served in Denmark in the 1970s.
A strong defender of human and women’s rights — two areas in which Iran is frequently criticized as having antiquated policies — Afkham has broken Iran’s gender barrier before, having become a spokeswoman for the country’s foreign minister in 2013. At the time, Iran scholar Farideh Farhi noted what a groundbreaking move it was to appoint Afkham to such a lofty, visible position. “This is an extremely bold move by Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif to appoint a woman to such high-ranking and politically visible post,” Farhi told CNN.
Afkham, who would become the country’s first female diplomat since Mehrangiz Dolatshahi served as Iran’s ambassador to Denmark in the 1970s, has also been outspoken on the current crisis in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has launched an offensive against the Houthi Shiite rebels who have taken control of the country’s capital, Sanaa, and forced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee.