December 22, 2016
By Roshanak Asteraki

Five ministers in President Rouhani’s cabinet have been accused of illicit affairs with a female journalist. In comments posted on his Telegram channel last week, Hossein Allahkaram, head of Tehran’s Ansar-e Hezbollah chapter, claimed that in her latest confession, Ms A.Ch., who has been convicted of espionage, has named four other cabinet ministers with whom she had committed immoral acts. The disclosure of her relationship with Ali Jannati, forced the resignation of the former culture minister.

Allahkaram was referring to newspaper columnist, Afarin Chitsaz, who was arrested in November 2015 by the intelligence branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and sentenced to ten years in prison for “collaboration with foreign governments”. She was also charged and convicted in April 2016 of “assembly and collusion against national security”. In an interview with International Human Rights in Iran, Chitsaz’s mother, Maryam Azadpour, said that her daughter had been kept in solitary confinement for six months, tortured, and forced to confess under duress to crimes she had not committed.

Since its early days, the regime’s tactic of choice for discrediting opponents has been to accuse them of being corrupt and perverted. For many years  after the revolution of 1979, leaders of the Islamic republic criticised Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi and his family for being morally corrupt.   In an interview with the state-run TV in 1987, Hossein Fardoust, a childhood friend of the late Shah, and former deputy chief of Iran’s powerful intelligence agency SAVAK, denounced the Shah, the  royal court, and the “corruption” of the government he had served in. The interview was undoubtedly scripted by the Islamic republic’s intelligence agencies. In his memoirs published posthumously, Fardoust levelled the same accusations against the Pahlavi family and their rule. Fardoust was one of the few generals in the Iranian military who did not flee the country after the revolution. It was rumoured that he had defected and helped the Islamic republic set up its intelligence agency, SAVAMA. 

In the1990’s the regime unchained its intelligence apparatus. It eliminated enemies with impunity until the shocking revelations about Saeed Emami, Iran’s deputy minister of intelligence, who was accused of independently organising assassinations of dissidents, in what became known as the “chain murders”. Emami’s sudden and mysterious death in prison, saved the regime from certain embarrassment. The video clips of the interrogations of Emami’s family revealed regime’s brutal tactics of accusations, humiliation, and torture used to extract confessions. 

The Islamic republic discredits intellectuals through character assassination. In a number of cases, dead bodies of dissidents were discovered in compromising positions with authorities claiming “ damning proof that their liberal and depraved life style had been their undoing”. 

The regime has reserved its venomous bite not only for dissidents but also for  reformists within its own ranks. Staunch conservatives tried to undermine former President Mohammad Khatami’s efforts to open up Iran through “dialogue between civilisations” initiative by describing it as pro-West. They also targeted Khatami’s culture minister, Attaollah Mohajerani, who had allegedly entered into a number of temporary marriages (Sigheh), forcing him to resign. Mohajerani was one of the first victim’s of the regime’s current method of sidelining opponents, namely by accusing them of moral corruption.

Masha’i and hid language tutor

The attacks have not been directed only at those in the reformist camp. Esfandiar Rahim Masha’i and Hamid Baqaei, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff, and Vice-President for executive affairs, have also been accused of carrying on illicit affairs with their language tutor.

The most recent rumours about the adulterous relationship between five ministers in President Rouhani’s cabinet and a female journalist is just the latest attempt by the regime to shame and embarrass its foes within the ruling oligarchy. It is ironic that the so-called “sacred” regime that lectures the world on morality and ethics, stops at nothing to destroy the reputations and lives of its opponents. There will probably be more revelations, rumours, accusations, and scandals between now and the upcoming presidential elections on  May 19, 2017.