Image copyright AFP/Getty Image caption The incident in Iran is drawing huge attention on social media
An Iranian governor was slapped in the face by a woman during a speech to members of her community at a town hall meeting in Sepahan, west of Tehran.
Yousef Mansouri, governor of the Babol Province, had appeared to criticise a pilot project which offers free education to single mothers, saying that their children were “no good”.
Media in Iran have taken the incident, made public on social media, to be a security risk.
Reports in the state-run Press TV and Mehr news agency spoke of “an assailant” and said the attack had been “suspected of being a security issue”.
Officials later attempted to play down the incident, saying it had been staged to provoke controversy.
Religion versus science
Mr Mansouri is a Shia Muslim, which makes him a potentially controversial choice to lead the notorious Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In his speech, he had attempted to defend the province’s literacy rate.
During the attack, he was heard to mention his credentials, as a third-generation farmer, and implied that the lack of involvement in science was to blame for the achievement.
Following the incident, Mr Mansouri took to social media, saying that he was not allowed to wear earphones and was unable to hear his microphone.
“No responsible employee can do what I could,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“People may not like me or my actions, but do not tell me not to do anything.”
The comments on Facebook have received almost two million shares, 1.7 million comments and some 20,000 posts of support and condemnation.
Couples ‘no different’
Media are speculating that the attack was the latest instance of a simmering row in the cleric-dominated country between hardline factions and women’s rights activists.
In the past couple of years, several female activists have been arrested after participating in events organised by hardline religious groups.
Human rights groups have accused hardliners of seeking to curb feminist activity, and of setting up negative stereotypes about women’s roles in society.
Iran is considered the world’s most repressive country for women, according to the International Centre for Human Rights.
Under Iranian law, a woman can be sentenced to death for “immoral” behaviour, among other charges. She is also subject to a high fine.
Female primary school students are allowed to start school with their brothers if they both live in the same family, an arrangement which some critics say promotes gender stereotyping.
The basic state curriculum does not encourage any types of gender mixing in schools, though there are strict limits on female and male student attire.
Some women have walked barefoot on the streets of Tehran. Others have been photographed bathing in public, said to be against Islamic law.
But their demonstrations are often quickly suppressed by police, and they end up in prison.