According to much of the Iranian media, Masoumeh Ebtekar, the vice-president for environmental affairs, would have become the first woman in the history of the Islamic republic to speak at the Mosalla in front of thousands.

Masoumeh Ebtekar was expected to address Iranians on Friday. Michael Probst / AP Photo
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TEHRAN // A speech by a veteran Iranian female politician scheduled to take place ahead of Friday prayers at Tehran’s biggest mosque was last night cancelled.

According to much of the Iranian media, Masoumeh Ebtekar, the vice-president for environmental affairs, would have become the first woman in the history of the Islamic republic to speak at the Mosalla in front of thousands. The claim is difficult to verify as there are some reports that another woman spoke at the Friday prayers in 2010.

However, an appearance of a woman in front of the male-dominated gathering of mostly conservative supporters of Iran’s revolution and its ideals would have been highly unusual.

A source close to the 54-year-old confirmed the speech had been cancelled. It was not immediately clear why.

Ms Ebtekar, a leading reformist and a long-time ally of the country’s new President Hassan Rouhani, wrote on her Facebook page earlier yesterday: “It is possible that my speech at the Friday prayer will be cancelled.”

Ms Ebtekar, 54, was a key figure in Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. With her perfect English, she became a spokeswoman for the students, who had stormed the US embassy in Tehran and took 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days.

She later sided with the reformists and under former president Mohammad Khatami was appointed the Islamic republic’s first female vice-president in 1997. She served for the entire eight years of Mr Khatami’s presidency in the same position she holds now.

She was marginalised under the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and came under fire in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election when she visited protesters.

The main speaker at the Friday prayers is always a prominent political or military official and some times even the president.

They are usually selected based on the top political, economic or social issues in the Iranian society.

Ms Ebtekar was expected to speak about tackling the severe air pollution in Iranian cities.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae