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Faezeh Hashemi Criticizes the Leader's Mismanagement and Phobia of Riots

August 25, 2020
Shima Shahrabi
9 min read
The Supreme Leader addressed the president and members of the cabinet in a video call on August 23
The Supreme Leader addressed the president and members of the cabinet in a video call on August 23
The Leader criticized Iranians’ decision to invest in property abroad
The Leader criticized Iranians’ decision to invest in property abroad
In an audio file obtained by IranWire, Faezeh Hashemi takes a stand against Ayatollah Khamenei's recent remarks
In an audio file obtained by IranWire, Faezeh Hashemi takes a stand against Ayatollah Khamenei's recent remarks

Political activist and former member of parliament Faezeh Hashemi has spoken out against Iran’s economic and diplomatic policies, the recent crackdown on activists and civil society, and the Supreme Leader’s support for such measures, particularly during the coronavirus crisis. 

On Sunday, August 23, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke to President Rouhani and members of the cabinet via video link, a wide-ranging address to mark "Government Week" that touched on the economy, foreign intervention, and the general behavior of the Iranian public. 

Soon after, Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president and one of the architects of the Islamic Republic, spoke out about the Supreme Leader's mismanagement of the country, and the renewed crackdown on women and civil society, which she indicated was irresponsible given the current health and economic crisis. Iran's law enforcement and intelligence agents could be used for more urgent matters, she indicated. In an audio clip obtained by IranWire, she encouraged the embrace of a broader view of how Iran situated itself in the world and interacted with other countries. 


Morality Police: Is this the Right Time to Crack Down? 

Hashemi has been critical of the Leader’s treatment of women for several years, and the recently-released audio clip shows her frustration at the renewed attack on their freedoms. "One of our friends said a few days ago she was summoned by the morality police because was not wearing hijab in her car. She said that 27 women were in the queue before her, and they had all been summoned for a similar reason. But in these days of the coronavirus outbreak, instead of putting our intelligence and energy and resources, including law enforcement officers, toward making sure people wear masks and follow protocols and make sure we are secure, is it really the time for morality patrols and cameras and clashes? Should we drag the people to stand in line or confiscate a car because the driver did not wear a headscarf? Are we not saying that there should not be any gatherings because of the coronavirus? So why don't policies and words correspond to one other?"

Hashemi also criticized the prison sentences recently handed down to political activists who had called on the government to "respect the rights of the people" and take legal action against individuals and security forces who had carried out brutal attacks against protesters in November 2019. The activists demanded the right to peaceful protest be upheld. 

She accused the Supreme Leader, the government and other officials of fearing public unrest, adding that the heavy sentences were contrary to the Iranian constitution, which recognizes freedom of expression. "The main reason for such rulings in this situation and in these circumstances is the fear that parts of our government and system have of riots and protests," she said. "The economic situation, the coronavirus outbreak, the political situation, conditions for workers, the unbridled inflation .. this means there is a possibility the people will want to come out and protest. Mr. Rouhani and others have said many times that we can expect such a thing. These heavy sentences are in fact creating a means of creating fear and panic in people and to show them their destiny if they decide to protest and criticize. This is a wrong policy, because it may work in the short term, but in the medium and long term, there will be more protests over these issues.”


Investment Abroad

In his speech to the president and government officials, Khamenei spoke of his frustration that Iranians were investing in properties abroad, and urged officials to take action against it. "There are reports that in one of our neighboring countries, the largest number of properties sold belongs to Iranians," he said. "That is not at all acceptable."

Faezeh Hashemi took issue with this attitude, and urged the Leader to assess why such a situation had arisen. "If we want to protest against this matter, we must first go back to ourselves and ask what happened that forced Iranians to invest elsewhere. This goes back to our policies. When our policies are not in the national interest, when economic security is compromised, when we are constantly and verbally at war with others, when there is no sense of political, economic, and social security and our money is constantly devalued, when our external policies and economy are mismanaged, it is natural for people to want to maintain the value of their money and invest elsewhere."

Referring to issue of Iranians buying property in Turkey,  she said: "If we are really opposed to this issue, we should re-examine our strategies, especially in the field of foreign policy and management. Let's review the criteria for managers and why we have reached a point where fewer experts are at the top. Then we can understand what is happening, stop it and create an environment in which people are eager to invest in their own country."

Hashemi said it was worth devoting analytical, intensive thought to any area about which officials were dissatisfied, and urged against taking action or criticizing a situation “without trying to reconsider the foundations and principles of the matter.” She said quick, impulsive responses and comments “will further encourage these investments abroad.”

The Supreme Leader’s address to key governmental officials also included an attack on the import of iPhones into Iran. "I heard that about half a billion dollars was spent on the import of a type of American luxury phone in 2019. Of course, the private sector does that, but the government must stop it. This is one of the obstacles we must overcome."

But Hashemi took also issue with the Supreme Leader’ stance on imports. "From one angle, in the era of sanctions and a currency crisis, the less we import luxury goods, the better. The money could be spent on more essential goods and to make efficient use of foreign currency. But some people may want to buy these goods with their own money, not using government currency because the government currency is not supposed to be spent on non-essential goods. Such restrictions do not work and encourage people further to seek out that product. Our currency should not be spent on these goods, but if I, as a trader, want to import goods with my own money and there is demand in the country, a ban is not logical, unless we create incentives for traders to move toward importing basic and essential goods.”


Sanctions and Diplomacy

Khamenei’s attack on iPhones was linked to a more overarching comment about US sanctions: "Now I wonder why those who impose so many sanctions on us do not impose it on this [product] and similar ones. This is totally unacceptable."

In his own response to sanctions, Baqer Nobakht, the head of the Program and Budget Organization, said: "In the current situation, we cannot sell oil, not to import food and not even for medicine."

In the audio clip IranWire obtained, Faezeh Hashemi acknowledged how serious and controversial sanctions were, but she accused officials of using them to absolve their own responsibility and guilt. "If we cannot sell oil to import medicine, this is not because of sanctions, but because we have not joined the Financial Action Taskforce Force,” she said. The international organization is tasked with combating money laundering, including terrorism. 

“Bank accounts and banks are closed on us and we cannot do business,” Hashemi said, and a lot of this was not linked sanctions, she said. “Incidentally, there is no problem with importing medicine, which has been mentioned several times.” She pointed to the Swiss-led payment option that allows humanitarian goods, including medicine, to be purchased for Iran without violating sanctions. The Iranian authorities, she said, had not responded to the initiative appropriately. 

She also highlighted the fact that Iran was also unable to do business with China, Russia and India because the banking exchange mechanisms were not an option for Iran. “When we want to exchange goods, they give us the goods they want, not the goods we need. These things put pressure on both the people and the government."

"If the sanctions are so bad, then why now, when more than 40 years have passed since the revolution, should we behave in such a way as to impose so many sanctions on ourselves? What is the difference between America and Britain or France? What is the difference between the relationship between the United States and Russia or the United States and China?” She questioned why Iran worked so hard to be friendly with Russia and China and so hostile to the West. "Our diplomacy must be based on interaction with the whole world. Bad policies have brought us to this point and are putting more and more pressure on us. These policies have no purpose. It would be acceptable if we had a goal and it benefitted our economy and led to freedoms and growth within the country. But the policies have pushed us back, day by day, and made our problems worse. If we had a referendum, most of our people would vote against these policies, so why should they continue? If we carry on with these wrong policies, with the problems they have created, it will only lead to mismanagement and mistakes.”

The Danger of the Internet

Khamenei’s address was wide-ranging and he paid ample attention to one of his more popular topics: outside intervention via the internet. "When we know there are people from outside who are leading and managing the internet — in which we also work and which affects us — we cannot sit idle," he said. "We cannot leave our people who are connected helpless."

But Faezeh Hashemi said such assumptions were wrong. "I do not agree with the statement that the internet is managed from abroad," she said. "If we assume that this is true, it is due to the weakness of the media in the country, and especially the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting agency, which still has the largest audience. If we assume that the internet is managed from abroad, it still goes back to our own mistakes and errors, because we lie and do not report the demands of the society, and even when we see that our citizens, girls or women want something, we oppose it. So they will naturally look the other way. The honesty, transparency, and trust that are most emphasized in our religion can help. If people see their demands met in our own media, there is no reason to pay attention to other media."


Related Coverage: 

Faezeh Hashemi Joins #Do_not_execute Campaign

Faezeh Hashemi: No Option but Civil Disobedience

Decoding Iran's Politics: The November 2019 Fact Sheet


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