"She is not even Iranian, she was born in Germany." "She isn't even a space scientist, she was selected only because she served as an army pilot." "She doesn't speak Persian, she is a U.S. citizen." "She cannot serve as a role model for Iranian girls."
These sentences summarize the articles and videos published by Iran's state media regarding Jasmin Moghbeli, a NASA astronaut, and a woman of Iranian descent.
Moghbeli led a crew that launched beyond the atmosphere on a Space-X rocket, on August 23, after NASA had scrubbed launch plans a day earlier to resolve unspecified paperwork issues.
The mission is Moghbeli's first trip into space – a dream come true for the U.S. Marines helicopter pilot and 40-year-old mother of twins who always knew she wanted to be an astronaut.
The official Iranian government news agency, newspapers Hamshahri, affiliated with the city of Tehran, and Farhikhtegan, affiliated with Azad University, and other outlets, have all worked to create the narrative that Moghbeli is Iranian in name only and has no substantial connection to Iran because he was born in Germany and raised in America.
Hamshahri conducted interviews with several citizens and attempt to change their praise for Moghbeli by informing them of her service record in the United States military.
And in another, the Farhikhtegan newspaper pointed to similar cases and emphasized that Moghbeli is not proficient in Persian and has never visited Iran. The outlet also tried to suggest that foreign media outlets present her as the face of the opposition.
The newspaper also criticized Moghbeli's involvement in U.S. military operations as a negative aspect of her background.
The official IRNA news agency, meanwhile, tried to draw a contrast between Moghbeli and its own list of accomplished Iranian women. The women on its list represented true role models for Iranian girls, the news agency said.
IRNA even published a photo of the late Iranian mathematician, Maryam Mirzakhani, seen without a hijab, in its coverage. The agency also included the names of women who were not politically controversial within the Islamic Republic, such as Poran Derakhshandeh, a film director, while omitting others like Rakhshan Banietemad.
IRNA's article also highlighted women who may not be well known at a time when several female university professors in Iran faced dismissal for supporting protesting students.
But the government's attempt through its media outlets to depict Moghbeli as disconnected from her Iranian heritage is soon debunked with a simple online search. Several online videos show her speaking fluent Persian and sharing her enthusiasm for Iranian culture.
In one such video, produced by the U.S. State Department, Moghbeli expresses her love for gheimeh – a popular Persian dish – and saying that Nowruz celebrations are among her most cherished Persian traditions.
Moghbeli added that her mother would visit her school every year during Nowruz to explain the festival to all her fellow students.
And coinciding with this year's Nowruz, Moghbeli posted a picture of a traditional Nowruz spread on her Instagram page, a photo that has gone viral in recent days after state media attacks.
Homa Sarshar, a journalist and writer living in America, told IranWire that being Iranian transcends geographical boundaries and living inside Iran.
"Iran is within each one of us, and wherever Iranians are, they carry Iran with them," she said.
"Jasmin, like many women who have flourished and accomplished remarkable feats outside of Iran, takes pride in being Iranian. The Islamic Republic cannot diminish anyone's sense of identity," Sarshar added.
The state media attacks on Moghbeli are rooted in her support for protesters during the recent Woman, Life, Freedom movement.
Moghbeli shared numerous photos of herself wearing a "Woman, Life, Freedom" t-shirt on Instagram.
Sarshar also said that, apart from her support for the protesters, government misogyny was another underlying cause of these assaults.
"Since the [1979 Islamic] Revolution, one of the primary objectives of the Islamic Republic's state media has been opposition to freedom-seeking women – those women who aspire to be self-reliant," she said. "After the success of women's movements, the government hastily moves to discredit them and portrays an unrealistic image of Iranian women through its propaganda."
Yasmin Moghbeli is not the only Iranian success story to have found themselves in state media crosshairs.
These media outlets, which refuse to recognize Moghbeli's Iranian identity, have previously targeted another accomplished Iranian-American who was born in Iran, traveled there, and spoke Persian fluently.
Firouz Naderi, a former NASA executive and Iranian-American who had been born Iran, traveled there after he moved abroad, who spoke fluent Persian, and who had also voiced support for protests in Iran, was also the target of repeated state media attacks.
Five years ago, when renowned Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi introduced Naderi as his representative to accept an Oscar award, Keyhan newspaper vehemently criticized the move. Keyhan launched a scathing attack on Naderi, asserting that he had consistently maintained that the Islamic Republic had taken the Iranian people hostage.
After Naderi's death, a TV presenter further attacked him and his associates during a broadcast, claiming that the former NASA official was an atheist.
Firouz Naderi and Jasmin Moghbeli have one thing in common: they are successful individuals who did not align with the ideological and political standards of the Islamic Republic and were deemed unsuitable role models for younger Iranians.
But, Sarshar, the journalist in the United States, believes that Moghbeli and women like her serve as symbols for other Iranian women and girls, demonstrating the extent of their abilities and how far they can progress when living in a country with democracy and freedom.