TEHRAN, Iran – She was known to Western media as “Mary” when she appeared before the world’s cameras to speak for the Iranian Islamic revolutionaries who seized 52 Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
Masoumeh Ebtekar served as spokeswoman for the hostage-takers during the 444-day standoff, chosen for the English fluency she acquired growing up in the United States. But she was also a believer 30-some years ago, she has conceded in recent interviews, in the cause of punishing Washington for its role in a 1953 coup that brought to power the hated shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Ebtekar, now 52 and mellowed, like many faces from that fevered heyday of the revolution, was named by Iranian President Hasan Rouhani on Tuesday to serve as a vice president and head of environmental affairs.
Ebtekar became the first female vice president of Iran in 1997, when she was appointed to the office by reformist President Mohammad Khatami, with whom she served throughout his eight years as political leader.
Her appointment by Rouhani underscored the newly inaugurated president’s efforts to strike a more moderate and collaborative posture toward the West after eight years of intensifying isolation brought on by his combative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
An announcement of Ebtekar’s appointment carried by the official Fars News Agency said she holds a doctorate in immunology and has been an associate professor in an array of scientific and medical disciplines at Tehran’s Tarbiat Modares University.
As a member of the Tehran City Council for the last six years, she led efforts to tackle air pollution problems in the capital and to protect marine life in the Persian Gulf.