Marziyeh Vahid Dastjerdi, Iran's health minister who was sacked for speaking out.
Thursday's sacking of the only female minister in Iran's government represented a severe blow to anyone who was hoping to speak out against the Iranian establishment anytime soon.
Marziyeh Vahid Dastjerdi, the country's (now former) health minister, was reportedly fired by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after publicly disagreeing with him over why the price was medical supplies in Iran was skyrocketing and becoming unaffordable for most of the public.
Vahid Dastjerdi asserted that sanctions imposed on the Iranian economy by the U.S. and E.U. were the cause of the price inflation, and accused the government of mismanaging Iran's foreign currency reserves. Ahmadinejad maintained his line that the sanctions have nothing to do with prices and have, in fact, had no real effect on the Iranian economy at all.
"Medicine is more essential than bread," Vahid Dastjerdi told the country on state television. "I have heard that luxury cars have been imported with subsidized dollars but I don't know what happened to the dollars that were supposed to be allocated for importing medicine."
No official reason for Vahid Dastjerdi's dismissal has been released by the Iranian government. She was suddenly replaced by a man named Mohammad Hassan Tariqat Monfared.
Vahid Dastjerdi was Iran's only woman in the government, however she was not a particularly progressive or pro-woman lawmaker. She was one of only three women nominated by Ahmadinejad for various positions after the tempestuous and controversial 2009 elections, and of those three she was the only woman approved for her post.
Indeed, she's known to be a social conservative, and thus not very popular among women's rights activists in Iran.
Nonetheless, Vahid Dastjerdi was the first woman to serve as a minister since the 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the Shah.
Much has been made of her gender, but her firing has less to do with women's issues than political issues, said Faraz Sanei, an Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"Her [sacking] is indicative of an Iranian government in disarray," Sanei said.
"Since the 2009 elections, the government has really shown very little respect or acceptance of dissent in the country. When Ahmadinejad was elected to his second term, since then there's been a widespread crackdown on dissent in the country.
"We've also seen internal fighting since then -- between Ahmadinejad's government and the conservatives on the religious bench, and within his [Ahmadinejad's] own government."
Initially elected as a populist, Ahmadinejad is nearing the end of his second and final term. His administration has been marked and marred by political strife, both domestically and internationally.
In March 2012, the Majlis (parliament) attempted to impeach him, and he has steadily declined from being a voice of the people to becoming an outcast even among conservatives.
Severe economic mismanagement further crippled his legacy, while his refusal to cooperate on curtailing Iran's nuclear program has hurt Iran's standing internationally.
"I think the government is too conservative," Sanei said. "The political situation in Iran is just such that reformists or progressives have had no place in the government or even in the parliament."
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