Daughter of former Iranian president sounds alarm

Iran’s ideological and political bankruptcy is well known and Hashemi’s fearless criticism will resonate with large parts of the Iranian public.
Sunday 17/11/2019
Faezeh Hashemi speaks during an  interview in Tehran. (AP)
A recipe for the future. Faezeh Hashemi speaks during an interview in Tehran. (AP)

There was a time when Faezeh Hashemi was mostly known for being the daughter of former President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani but increasingly she is emerging as a national political figure in her own right.

She is a political figure who said she fears for the destiny of the regime her father helped create. A regime, Hashemi said, that has been “in decline” since the era of populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The question is whether Iran can correct its course. Just as relevant is the question of whether the Iranian public accepts Hashemi’s recipe for a brighter political future or blames her for her father’s commanding role in the regime.

Hashemi’s recent appearance in Ardeshir Ahmadi’s online talk show “Goftegou” [“Dialogue”] nicely represents the essence of her political agenda. Dressed in the traditional chador, blue jeans and canvas sneakers, she fearlessly thundered against the performance of Iran.

Asked her opinion of the Islamic Republic, the 56-year-old said: “I believe our regime is deprived of its substance.” Discussing the “Islamic” and “republican” elements in the regime, she accused the rulers of ignoring Islam, except when it is to legitimise their abuse of power.

The “republican” element is just as problematic: “It is correct that we have elections and the people, to a certain extent, participate but republicanism is not just elections. It also [requires] freedom of speech, which is guaranteed in our constitution,” she said.

“But we limit the freedom of speech by calling it ‘propagation against the regime,’ ‘disturbing the public opinion,’ ‘dissemination of lies.’ In other words, the freedom to criticise [the regime] is defined as a political crime.”

Turning to the issue of compulsory hijab for women in Iran, Hashemi said: “I don’t believe in compulsory hijab. Compulsory hijab is just as wrong as Reza Shah’s ban against the veil [in 1936].” She compared present-day Iran with 1979, the year of the revolution: “Today, the society has become less religious and abides less by the hijab compared to 40 years ago.”

Continuing her cannonade against the regime, she said: “We have created phobia against religion. We caused the people to turn away from religion. We provoked anti-religious sentiments… This is all because of the compulsory hijab.”

Still worse for the regime, she asked: “The very name, Islamic government, and the fact that we commit all our mistakes in the name of Islam, does it strengthen religiosity or does it harm religion?”

Turning to the regime’s claim of independence in world politics, she asked: “How long are we willing to pay protection money to Russia because of lack of [diplomatic] relations with the United States?”

Rather than blame Russia for systematically betraying Iran, she asked why Iran is not pursuing its national interests, why it is not establishing diplomatic relations with the United States and why it is creating obstacles in the path of relations with Arab countries, the Europeans and others?

Iran’s ideological and political bankruptcy is well known and Hashemi’s fearless criticism will resonate with large parts of the Iranian public but her argument has a fundamental weakness: The complicity of the Rafsanjani family in creating the monstrous regime. How come she did not voice criticism against injustice in the heyday of her father? How come the Rafsanjanis first became critical of the Islamic Republic as the regime gradually marginalised them?

It is not entirely unlikely that the Iranian public buys Hashemi’s recipe for a brighter future, despite the sins of her father. The regime’s ability to listen to her counsel and perhaps provide her with the opportunity to run for public office and restore some public trust in the regime is less likely. She is ringing the alarm and the Islamic Republic is the entity for which the bell tolls.