TEHERAN – Iran’s former reformist president Mohammad Khatami on Thursday
vehemently denied breaking Islamic rules by shaking hands with women on a trip to Italy, amid growing condemnation from conservatives.
Khatami’s old hardline foes have expressed outrage over video footage circulating on the Internet which apparently shows the former president shaking hands with several women.
“˜Khatami officially denied that he had shook hands with any woman and the film
circulating is not based on reality,” said a statement from his office reported by the ISNA
news agency and Ham Mihan newspaper.
“˜This film circulating on some conservative websites which shows him shaking hand with some Italian women is a version that has been edited and Khatami wholly denies this.”
YouTube has several videos. Forbidden handshakes at approximately 4:28 here (with, at times, the surreal accompaniment of a string ensemble playing a tango), and more in this one, sarcastically subtitled “love story.”
According to Islam’s sharia law, it is forbidden for a man to have any physical
contact with a woman to whom he is not related. Whether at home or on trips abroad, Iran’s
officials studiously avoid handshakes with females.
The alleged handshake has already been condemned in the ultra-hardline press,
who took a strong stance against Khatami’s cautious attempts at social reform during his
Meanwhile, Etemad newspaper said several ultra-conservatives staged a protest
against Khatami in the holy northeastern city of Mashhad and handed over a complaint to a
special clerical court demanding he be put on trial.
The paper said the crowd, carrying placards like “˜Defrock Mohammad Khatami” and “˜”˜Death to the Clerics” Foe”, successfully lodged their complaint and handed over copies of
the film and other documents to the court.
It said the protests were part of a drive against Khatami ahead of key parliamentary elections in Iran on March 23 where moderates will seek to challenge
conservatives for control of the chamber.
Khatami has said he will not himself stand in the elections, but he remains a hugely charismatic figurehead for moderates and retains a following despite the acknowledged failures of his rule.