Segregating The Sexes In Tehran

Tehran's city government is trying to separate male and female employees within its offices, a move parallel with moral norms favored by Iran's Islamic government but likely to irk less conservatie segments of the population.

This would not be the first such move in Iran since the 1979 revolution. There have been previous attempts to separate the sexes at universities, and buses already have distinct sections for men and women — which is also the case in some other countries, including Mexico.

It is unclear when the change might happen, but conservative politicians are praising Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the conservative daily Jomhuri-e Eslami reports.

Tehran MP Ali Motahari wrote in a public letter to the mayor that this separation of the sexes within city offices should have happened years ago and there was "consensus" about segregation at work. "This is in contrast with the Western world, which wants to belittle chastity, and we see all the problems they face, with precarious families ... homosexuality and the degradation of women," Motahari wrote.

Previous governments evaded the issue, he wrote, apparently fearing electoral consequences. "It is not clear what the opponents of this initiative are upset about," he wrote.

Deputy judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi has separately said that women support the change, because "most women need an entirely suitable and calm environment so they can work better."

Tehran's Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Kazemini said that "our sisters and brothers" shouldn't sit beside each other at work and "pull away the curtain of decency." He told a conference on women and religion Wednesday that "divorce figures between working people are not small, and this is of concern."

Iranian authorities aren't ignorant of modern lifestyles, but they want to limit situations that could lead to sex outside of marriage.

These comments about segregating the sexes came amid a more disturbing report about a Tehran school principal accused of abusing girls between the ages of 8 and 11. Judiciary official Mozaffar Alvandi recently said that it was unclear whether the abuse was "imposed" or whether the incidents between the girls and the teacher were "consenting."

After his outrageous comments, Alvandi declined requests from the BBC to elaborate. He told Iran's ILNA news agency that child abuse is a problem everywhere, not just in Iran, and that "mutual attraction exists at certain age groups," and that children today are not as innocent as they were in the past. He supports "certain types of education for certain age groups" — or some form of sex education — if only to counter the influence of the "Internet and satellite dishes."

— Ahmad Shayegan

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!