TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian President Hasan Rouhani has given a vice-presidency post to a hardliner-turned-reformer who once served as a spokeswoman for the hostage-takers at the U.S. Embassy after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, an adviser said Tuesday.
The selection of Masoomeh Ebtekar as vice president for environmental affairs underscores how many staunch backers of the overthrow of Iran's Western-backed monarchy more than 30 years ago now side with moderates.
Their complaints include the belief that the ruling clerics have become too oriented toward battling the West and need to adopt more international outreach in a globalized world. Such figures as opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi — both under house arrests since early 2011 — were strong supports of the Islamic Revolution before seeking to press for reforms.
Ebtekar, who is fluent in English from years living in the U.S. as a school girl, was a main spokeswoman during the 444-day hostage standoff. She was referred to as "Mary" by the foreign media and she made frequent appearances on American television as a translator for the hostage takers, who held a total of 52 captives until January 1981.
In interviews, Ebtekar has defended the embassy takeover in the context of the revolution's fervor and Iran's historical grievances against Washington for backing a coup in 1953 that toppled a democratically elected government and reinstalled the pro-Western shah. Ebtekar also dismissed as superficial last year's film "Argo," about a secret plan to rescue Americans who slipped out of the embassy compound after it was stormed.
Ebtekar, who has a doctorate in immunology, was Iran's first woman vice president under reformist President Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005. She later served on the Tehran Municipal Council and became a respected scholar in environmental studies.
She will be the second woman on the panel of vice presidents picked by Rouhani.
The official IRNA news agency quotes Rouhani adviser Mohammad Reza Sadegh as saying the president also named a former Khatami administration defense minister, Adm. Ali Shamkhani, as secretary of the powerful Supreme National Security Council.