The upcoming presidential elections in Iran have seen the highest number of female candidates since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

After the deadline for submitting candidacy applications was met last Saturday, the official authority announced that 137 females have registered their entry, out of a total of 1,636 applicants. 

According to Al-Modon, this marks the highest-ever number of female presidential candidates in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The all-male Guardian Council of the Constitution is set to vet the 1,636 applications and choose six applicants eligible for the presidential race. 

On May 19, Iranians will elect their next president, and it will most probably be a man. But, national customs are not holding Iranian women back.

Despite knowing that the odds are stacked against them, and that the council will most likely disqualify their nomination, 137 Iranian women have decided to take a stand against the deep-rooted patriarchy in their country and make their voices heard by running in the elections

According to The New Arab, Sha'la Tabrizi, who has a PhD in Political Science, was the first woman to register for this year's presidential race. 

"Women constitute 60 percent of Iranian society, so they should strive for one of them to become a powerful president some day," she told local media, adding that she is aware of how bleak her chances are. 

Similarly, A'zam Taleghani, daughter of prominent Islamic Revolution leader Mahmoud Taleghani and Iran's first-ever female presidential candidate, registered her candidacy for the third time this year. Taleghani is a women's rights activist and former MP who heads the Society of Islamic Revolution Women of Iran.

Does Iranian law permit female presidential candidates?

In principle, women are permitted to run for president, as the Iranian constitution does not explicitly prohibit them from that. But, the constitution remains ambiguous on the matter.

Article 115 of the constitution mandates that presidential candidates be from "redjal-el siasi".  

"In the constitution. It has not been clarified whether or not a woman can assume the office of president. The constitution does not provide a clear answer to this. Article 115 of the constitution says the president must come from the ranks of the political redjal. The Persian word redjal means 'men,' but it can also signify 'persons,'" Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, a women's rights activist told DW

But, not everyone agrees. 

“Based on interpretations of the law so far, women are not considered ‘political personalities,’” said Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli on April 11, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Meanwhile, according to TRT World, a female member of the Iranian parliament, Tayyebeh Siavoshi, has said that "redjal"  is used in the Islamic Quran to address all human beings. 

The Guardian Council has never approved female candidates

The Guardian Council has disqualified every female presidential candidate since 1979.

"The religious politicians did not admit their real reason for excluding women," former Iranian MP Jamileh Kadivar has said. "It was clear that these women were excluded because of their gender and the conservative male-centered interpretation of the laws that state women are not considered to be statesmen – redjal," she added. 

In 2013, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesperson of the Guardian Council, said that the council has not settled on an official interpretation of Article 115 concerning female candidates

Last December, he announced that women would be allowed to run in the upcoming presidential elections. Still, whether or not the council will follow through with that promise remains to be seen.  

Earlier this month, Kadkhodaei announced that the council will issue an official interpretation before the upcoming elections, which is also a promise that has not yet been fulfilled. 

Iran has seen a rise in women's involvement in leadership

Last year's parliamentary elections saw the highest number of female members of parliament ever elected since the Islamic Revolution, with females now composing 6% of the Iranian parliament.  

This year, the republic saw a 0.9% increase in the number of female candidates running for local and rural elections, which are scheduled to take place next month, compared to the 2013 elections

Still, Iranian Journalist Fateme Karimkhan told TRT World that the problem lies in the shortage of prominent female political figures in the country. "Right now our problem is not about the Guardian Council. It is about the person," she said. 

"All those who were nominated for presidency in the last 37 years were famous political figures, we do not have such things among women."