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Who was really cheated in Iran's vote? Women.

The West shouldn't cozy up to a regime that rigs elections against feminist candidates.

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What is striking about the Iranians protesting fraud in the June 10 "election" is the number of women on the front lines. Among all those cheated at the polls, they may feel the most denied.

For the first time in one of the Islamic Republic's controlled presidential campaigns, the women's movement was able to raise its demands clearly and independently – even though the unelected, 12-member, all-male Guardian Council did not allow any female candidates to run.

The movement's courage to confront the patriarchal theocracy (in which "morality police" still roam the streets looking for women with make-up) may have been a big reason why the regime rigged the vote count – and why supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was forced to make a show of ordering a probe of the fraud.

Iranian women do enjoy privileges that women in many Arab countries do not. But Iran's powerful clerics know that democracy's advance and the liberation of women go hand in hand. They've seen women recently elected in Kuwait and in Iraq's new democracy, while their proxy group in Lebanon, Hezbollah, lost an election. So they are trying to stop both the women's movement and open democracy in Iran in order to maintain their Shiite "revolution" and their own rule.

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