MEN AND WOMEN ARE EQUAL, WHEREAS THEY ARE NOT. The creative use of English grammar on the official Web site of Iran's supreme leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei makes navigating such side-bar categories as Suggestions and Viewpoints tricky. Then again, a taste for unintelligibility may be beneficial for the Ayatollah when it comes to discussing women's rights in Iran.

An AP article yesterday lauded the Iranian leader for showing signs of "budging" on restrictions facing women in the Islamic republic of Iran, but the actual report reveals that the word "budging" would necessarily have to incorporate a substantial amount of ambiguity. "The responsibility of running the society and country falls on every individual men and women alike whereas the prime assignment of women at every social status lies in the foundation of family," Khamenei said. He simultaneously criticized western views, claiming that "the views in fact belittle women," calling "the Western manipulative treatment of women oppression against the human community and betrayal of women rights." Finally, Khamenei "appealed to the country's research bodies, universities and jurisprudential schools to provide quality argument against feminist views and propaganda."

To be fair, Khamenei does allow that "some issues about women, which exist in religious jurisprudence, are not the final say. It is possible to interpret new points through research by a skillful jurist." In Iran, where women are not allowed to work or travel without the permission of a male guardian and hold secondary standing in courts of law, this statement is promising. However, his is a government better known for arresting activists and artists that advocate gender equality than for the integrity of its promises. He had better put some muscle behind his words before we can praise Iran for "budging" on this issue.

--Elisabeth Zerofsky