On the evening of Wednesday, June 2, Reyhaneh Sadat Raeesi appeared on a special talk show hosted by the state-owned Student News Network to talk about her father Ebrahim Raeesi’s presidential candidacy. It followed a previous surprise appearance by Sepideh Shabestari, the wife of fellow candidate Abdolnasser Hemmati.
On the show, Reyhaneh Sadat Raeesi emphasized that her father’s main concerns were “people's livelihoods and the state of Iran's economy". When asked by the host how the family spent their free time, she replied: "It is not important what we do at home. You should be looking at my father's solutions to address the current problems in the country."
Raeesi is the likely frontrunner in the upcoming election on June 18, and despite his track record of ordering the executions and extrajudicial murders of Iranian citizens from 1988 to the present day, his daughter insisted he was a “kind” person.
“He rarely accepts oppression,” she said, “and [instead] deals with oppression, and this is one of his strong points."
Reyhaneh Sadat Raeesi tried to claim her father was an advocate of equality between men and women, citing the creation of segregated parks for women in Mashhad under Raeesi’s tenure as an example of this.
While serving as chief justice Raeesi, a long-time regime insider, has also had a hand in the mass incarcerations that followed the 2017, 2018 and 2019 protests. Those who took issue with some protesters then being sentenced to death, he said, were “counter-revolutionary”. He also allegations of rape by prison guards at Kahrizak Detention Center as “marginal” and ordered the victims who spoke out to be punished for slander instead.
But Reyhaneh Sadat Raeesi also said: “During his tenure as head of the judiciary, women prisoners were able to serve their sentences both outside prison on an ankle tag. And during his two years as chief justice, friends and foes alike say lovely things have happened to women.
"In 2017 [during presidential election campaigning], it was said that he was building a wall between men and women, but he built a bridge, which promotes both women and men."
Reactions to the presence of Reyhaneh Sadat Raeesi on IRIB
The broadcast was met with disbelief on social media as people recalled Raeesi’s role in the widespread repression and killing of dissidents from the Islamic Revolution onward. "Father is very kind," one user repeated in a tweet, posted together with a picture of Khavaran Cemetery where some of the thousands of 1988 massacre victims were buried in mass graves.
Another user aghast at the notion of Raeesi’s "kindness" published an old front-page story from Etemad newspaper in which Raeesi had said that 90 people would soon be executed. “Ebrahim Raeesi’s daughter says ‘Father is very kind’,” they wrote. “Her father’s 40-year career in the judiciary is full of kindness and tenderness. You can see some of her father's kindness in the judiciary in this photo: the executions of 1988 and the killings of 2019!"
That said, other observers welcomed a presidential candidate’s daughter coming on state TV so close to the vote “Poor reformists,” one wrote, “who cannot tolerate news of the presence of Mr. Raeesi's daughter on TV; it’s not profitable for them to enter this competition."
Another user called Reyhaneh Sadat Raeesi’s public appearance a "positive and forward-looking step", adding: "The presence of Candidates' daughter or wife in the national media is a positive step forward; even if it is just a show, it means surrendering to the will of society for a change."