Iranians rage against elites’ nepotism, corruption in social media campaign

Anger grows online over the privileges and apparently extravagant lifestyles of government officials’ family members

Illustrative: People protest the state of Iran's economy at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 25, 2018 (Iranian Labor News Agency via AP)
Illustrative: People protest the state of Iran's economy at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 25, 2018 (Iranian Labor News Agency via AP)

Amid growing public unrest over their country’s economic difficulties, increasingly angry Iranians are shining a spotlight on the nepotism and corruption they believe is prevalent among the nation’s elite.

A recent social media campaign, under the hashtag #where_is_your_kid, has been calling on members of government and other officials to give details on their children’s education and employment.

Photos of the country’s “Aghazadeh,” or rich kids, living apparently opulent and extravagant lives and attending glitzy events, have incensed Iranians, amid reports that many are enjoying privileges not available to others, and winning high-paying state jobs not justified by their credentials or experience.

“Are they reaping the fruit of their own effort or eating from our riches? Are they appointed on merit?” one person quoted by Bloomberg tweeted.

According to The Telegraph, Mahmoud Bahmani, a former governor of Iran’s Central Bank, has joined the critics, telling Iranian press over 5,000 such “rich kids” live outside Iran.

“Together they have $148 billion in their bank accounts,” he said, “which is more than Iran’s foreign currency reserves. We need to know what are they up to in those foreign countries when only 300 of them are registered as university students.”

Social media users have also expressed outrage over photos of the lavish wedding of the son of Iran’s ambassador to Denmark.

They’ve also been infuriated by the son of a former vice president whose business ventures thrived while his father served in government, and who attributed his success during an interview to “good genes.”

Another such story, according to The Iran Project, is that of Ahmad Araghchi, nephew of deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi, who was appointed the nation’s top foreign currency official though his experience did not appear to merit such a position. He was fired and arrested earlier this month amid a probe into corruption at the Central Bank.

Some Iranian officials have cooperated with the campaign and disclosed their children’s employment and education, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Culture Minister Abbas Salehi.

Iranian economist Manouchehr Farahbakhsh, who lives in London, told the Telegraph Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s own family would likey be at the top of any nepotism list, which would show how “from simple farmers [before the Islamic revolution] they have become billionaires today.”

Since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran in May, the Iranian rial has slipped to record lows, which has consequently led many in the authoritarian country to explicitly call for an end to the rule of Iran’s Islamist leadership.

Protests have sprung up in several major cities including Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Tehran, driven by concerns over the economy as well as wider anger at the political system.

Videos have shown demonstrators cry out against “the dictator” in reference to Khamenei.

The numerous protests are a continuation of sorts of a nationwide anti-government movement that started gaining ground in late December and continued protesting sporadically throughout the year.

People wait in front of a closed money exchange shop in downtown Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The Islamic Republic’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri admitted Saturday that Iran’s economic situation was serious, but stressed that the nation was not at a dead-end.

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