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TV debate moments: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad v Mir-Hossein Mousavi | June 2009

"I have a file on a certain woman. You know her."

Those who consider Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a hardline insider should not forget that he has fought two successful election campaigns on an anti-establishment, anti-corruption ticket.

It was in this context that he brandished a file on his 2009 challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, during a presidential debate on TV, accusing Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, of falsifying her academic qualifications:

I have a file on a certain woman. You know her. She sits next to you in your campaign broadcasts. In violation of all the country's laws, when she was an employee [of the government] she studied for two MAs . . . She received her PhD without passing the entrance exams.

The cheap shot backfired on the incumbent. Mousavi forcefully defended his wife as "the most important female intellectual in the country".

Rahnavard, an influential campaigner and former government adviser, hit back, accusing Ahmadinejad of humiliating not just herself, but all Iranian women. Disparate reformist groups rallied behind Mousavi, leading to the disturbances during the 12 June poll and its hotly disputed result.

You can watch the remarks (with subtitles) below -- the crucial point comes at 8:25.


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