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Nepotism? Nah, “Good Genes”!

September 2, 2017
Aida Ghajar
9 min read
Nepotism? Nah, “Good Genes”!

Note: to see the full nepotism chart in the article, please use your mobile devices horizontally.

In Iran, debates over the privileged elite are never long out of the headlines. A recent interview with the son of a reformist political leader has sparked the most recent scandal, leading to fresh scrutiny and criticism of the financial activities of the country’s most powerful political families and their offspring. 

In the interview, Hamid Reza Aref, the son of reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref, who leads the Omid faction in parliament, boasted that he has established several successful businesses in Iran starting in 2001, when he was just 23. He claims it was he who brought  MTN, a South African multinational mobile telecommunications company, to Iran in 2006. The company now owns 49 percent of the government-controlled MTN Irancell brand, and on May 8, it announced that it would invest close to $300 million toward building a broadband network in Iran.

Aref credits his success to the “good genes” he inherited from his parents. When asked about this “good genes” theory on August 30, his father sidestepped the question, instead praising his son and saying that he had always been “at the top the class” during his school days. The comments inspired the hashtag #good_genes, which Iranians have used to criticize Aref, as well as the many other privileged “princes” of wealthy politicians and businessmen that benefit from family reputations and are entitled to enormous advantages. This nepotism is rife across Iran’s complex political, ideological and social divides, and it’s not restricted to the capital: Outside Tehran, the family members of powerful men enjoy huge success too. 

Farshad Abbasi, the mayor of Kivi in Ardabil province, is one example. His father is Eghbal Abbasi, Ardabil Province’s Deputy Governor for Economic and Resource Development. The mayor of Hashtgerd in Alborz Province, Amir Bahaman — the son of parliamentarian Mahmoud Bahmani, the former governor of the Central Bank under President Ahmadinejad— is another. One father is a reformist and the other is a conservative principlist, but both have benefited from their fathers’ influence and success.  

table{background-color:rgba(255,0,0,0.3); font-size:14px }
Name Relative Relative’s Job Current Job
Amir Bahmani Mahmoud Bahmani
Member of Parliament, Central Bank Governor under President Ahmadinejad Mayor of Hashtgerd (Alborz Province)
Mohammad Hossein Chamran Mehdi Chamran
Former Chairman of Tehran City Council Deputy, Tehran Municipality’s Abbas Abad Urban Development & Renovation
Mohammad Yassin Ramin Mohammad Ali Ramin
Press Deputy of Ministry of Culture under President Ahmadinejad CEO of Roshd Co., importer of medicine under President Ahmadinejad. He is now under arrest for embezzlement.
Komeil Lahouti Mehrdad Lahouti
Member of Parliament Resigned as Mayor of Chamkhaleh, Gilan Province
Fariborz Lahouti Mehrdad Lahouti
Member of Parliament Acting Mayor & Former Mayor of Kumeleh (Gilan Province)
Jamshid Lahouti Mehrdad Lahouti
Member of Parliament Head of Education Department of Langarood (Gilan Province)
Zahir Motahari Ali Motahari
Member of Parliament Director General of the Ministry of Culture’s Domestic Press & News Agencies Bureau
Faridodin Haddad Adel Gholamali Haddad Adel
Head of Academy of Persian Language and Literature, Former Speaker of the Parliament Member of Principlists’ Council for Press Policies, Member of the Board of Directors of Atieh Culture & Arts Institution
Elias Ghalibaf Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf
Former Tehran Mayor Chairman of the Board of Shams al-Shamus Educational Institute
Ali Rezaei Mohsen Rezaei
Former Revolutionary Guards Commander & former Secretary of the Expediency Council Expediency Council’s Research Deputy for International Affairs
Alijan Soleimani General Ghasem Soleimani
Commander of the expeditionary Quds Force Governor of Rabor (Kerman Province)
Mohammad Reza Qara’ati Mohsen Qara’ati
Head of Prayers Headquarters Head of Labor Ministry’s Public Relations Office and Advisor to Labor Minister
Mohammad Nabi Rezaei Mohammad Ebrahim Rezaei
Former Member of Parliament and Former Revolutionary Guards Commander Deputy CEO of Noor Credit Company
Alireza Mahdavi Shahroudi Mohammad
Sharif Mahdavi Shahroudi
Former Ambassador to South Africa & Saudi Arabia Tehran Province’s Director General of Public Relations & International Affairs
Meysam Mozaffar Mehdi Koochak
Former Member of Parliament Former CEO of Taxi Organization of Iran
Hasan Karimi Ghodoosi Javad Karimi Ghoddousi
Member of Parliament & Former Revolutionary Guards Commander CEO of Computer Games Organization, an Affiliate of Ministry of Culture
Mojtaba Kateb Gholamreza Kateb
Member of Parliament Member of the Board of Directors of Sarmad Insurance Company, an Affiliate of Bank Saderat
Jalal Moshfegh Ali Morad Khani
Deputy Culture Minister for Arts Advisor to Ali Morad Khani (His Brother-in-Law)

Then there’s Komeil Lahouti, son of Mehrdad Lahouti, another member of parliament. When he was elected mayor of Chamkhaleh in Gilan Province a wave of criticism rippled across social networks. Now his father has announced that his son has resigned as mayor but only because he qualifies for more important positions. 

Other members of the Lahouti family have also benefited from family connections. In 2015 Komeil Lahouti’s brother Fariborz became mayor of Kumeleh, another town in Gilan Province. Another brother, Jamshid, is Head of the Education Department of Langarood in the same province.

In the middle of the commotion over Komeil Lahouti’s appointment,  suddenly the name of Mostafa Mousavi Lari, son of Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari — the interior minister under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami — also appeared on social networks. Mostafa Mousavi Lari is a member of the board of directors of Suliran Company, the biggest manufacturer of steel structures in Iran since 1964.

A Flood of Names

The floodgates were open. The names of other “princes” with important jobs were everywhere on social networks and in the media in general. And while this was going on, Zahir Motahari, whose uncle Ali Motahari is deputy speaker of the parliament, was appointed Director General of the Domestic Press and News Agencies Bureau at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Then there was the news that Mohammad Hadi and Mohammad Mehdi Akhoundi, sons of Roads and Urban Development Minister Abbas Akhoundi, had been appointed to the boards of several companies affiliated with that ministry. At this point, parliament stepped in. Gholamreza Tajgardoon, the reformist head of Parliament's Commission on Plan and Budget, announced that the names of Akhoundi’s two sons did not appear on any contract involving the ministry. In response, principlist media published a chart [in Persian] which clearly shows the business involvements of the two.

And while most of the advantaged individuals are men, female members of influential families benefit too: A cursory look at the list of female members of parliament reveal connections to the Islamic Republic’s political establishment. For example, Fatemeh Hosseini is the daughter of Safdar Hosseini, who was Minister of Economy under President Khatami and the chairman of the National Development Fund of Iran. Before being elected to parliament, Fatemeh Hosseini was the president of a currency exchange company — a lucrative business in Iran that required a government license.

Fatemeh Zolghadr, a Tehran parliamentary representative, is the daughter of Mostafa Zolghadr, member of parliament from Minab in Hormozgan Province. Zahra Saei, a representative from East Azerbaijan Province, is the daughter of Ahad Saei, the Revolutionary Guards commander who died in 2014. And Somayeh Mahmoudi, a representative from Isfahan Province, is the daughter of  General Gholam Reza Mahmoudi, who was killed during the Iran-Iraq War.

Abbas Araghchi, deputy foreign minister under President Rouhani and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in discussions with world powers, has also been able to pass on some success to his relatives: His nephew Ahmad Araghchi is the Deputy for Currency Transactions at the Central Bank. Another nephew, Ali Araghchi, is Secretary General of the Industrial Development Organization of the Labor Ministry. Mehdi Vakili and Hadi Vakili, sons of Mohammad Ali Vakili, a Tehran MP, are CEOs of companies affiliated with the Ministry of Labor. Mehdi Vakili is the CEO of Kavoshgaran Atyeh Saba Industrial Corp. and Hadi Vakili is the CEO of another entity belonging to the ministry. And yet their father is not happy. He says that they should not have accepted such “low-level” positions.


.table2{background-color:rgba(0,255,0,0.3); font-size:13px}
Name Relative Relative’s Job Current Job
Farshad Abbasi Eghbal Abbasi
Deputy Governor for Economic & Resource Development, Ardabil Province Mayor of Kivi (Ardabil Province)
Mehdi Vakili Mohammad
Ali Vakili
Member of Parliament CEO of Kavoshgaran Atyeh Saba Industrial Corp., Affiliate of Labor Ministry
Hadi Vakili Mohammad
Ali Vakili
Member of Parliament CEO of a company affiliated with Labor Ministry
Ahmad Araghchi Abbas Araghchi
Deputy Foreign Minister Central Banks Deputy for Currency
Ali Araghchi Abbas Araghchi
Deputy Foreign Minister Secretary General of Industrial Development Organization of Labor Ministry
Mostafa Mousavi Lari Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari
Interior Minister under President Khatami Member of the Board of Directors of Suliran Company, the biggest manufacturer of steel structures in Iran
Mohammad Hadi & Mohammad Mehdi Akhoundi Abbas Akhoundi
Roads & Urban Development Minister Members of the boards of directors of several companies
Hamid Reza Aref Mohammad Reza Aref
Leader of Reformist Hope Faction in Iranian Parliament Communications Business; claims that he brought South African telecom company MTN to Iran.
Sajad Ebadi Rahim Ebadi
Advisor to President Khatami and his Deputy Education Minister Mehr Alborz University’s Head of Public Relations
Mohammad Alikhani Ghodratollah Alikhani
Member of Parliament Member of Tehran City Council
Fatemeh Hosseini Safdar Hosseini
Former chairman of the National Development Fund of Iran Former Member of Parliament; Former president of a currency exchange company
Zahra Saei Ahad Saei
Revolutionary Guards Commander Member of Parliament
Hamideh Zarabadi Ayatollah Jalil Zarabadi
Clergy Member of Parliament
Somayeh Mahmoudi General Gholam Reza Mahmoudi
Revolutionary Guards Commander Member of Parliament
Parvaneh Salahshouri Barat Ghobadian
Senior Advisor to Science Ministry Member of Parliament
Taha Hashemi Masoumeh Ebtekar
Former Vice President of Iran under President Rouhani Businessman
Fatemeh Zolghadr Mostafa Zolghadr
Member of Parliament Member of Parliament
Mohammad Mehdi Sadegh Mohammad Reza Sadegh
Iran’s Ambassador to Ukraine CEO of Sadad Electronic Payment Company, an Affiliate of Bank Melli

So how Much Do They Make?

So how much money do these princes make? For most of them, no figures are available. Mohammad Ali Vakili says his son’s monthly salary was two million tomans, or a little over $600. But on the other extreme, it was reported that that the monthly salary of Mohammad Nabi Rezaei, deputy CEO of Noor Credit Company, is close to $8,500. He is the brother of Mohammad Ebrahim Rezaei, former member of parliament and former Revolutionary Guards commander. He is just one example of how valuable the “good genes” of the Rezaei tribe can be.

These names and connections are just a small sample of Iran’s entrenched nepotism, and merely what the country’s domestic media has been able to verify and uncover. As the early post-revolutionary movers and shakers reach retirement age, their offspring, now in their thirties and forties, are set to take the place of their parents, filling their vacant, or soon-to-be-vacant, positions. 

Ali Rezaei was born in 1980. In 1997, his father Mohsen Rezai,  a former Revolutionary Guards Commander, was appointed Secretary of the Expediency Council, the influential assembly appointed by the Supreme Leader to resolve differences between parliament and the Guardian Council. In 1999 he managed to appoint his son, then 19, to the Secretariat of the Expediency Council. Since then, he says, he has received a Ph.D. and is now his father’s deputy. Ali Rezaei, like so many others, must have very good genes.




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