Two days after President Ebrahim Raisi faced criticism by university students, state media are still praising him, portraying the meeting as a win for Raisi.
On Tuesday, several students lashed out at Raisi for his economic policies and his administration's approach to human rights, when he met them to mark Iran’s Student Day. An Islamist student harshly attacked him and the ruling elite during a public meeting in Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology.
Mohammad Hossein Bayat, the student who addressed Raisi as the leader of the Islamic Association, told him in all frankness:“You got elected in the least competitive election in the history of the Islamic Republic, with the lowest rate of voter participation.” He added, “We are speaking to you not as a president elected with the free vote of the people in a free election. We are speaking to you as a representative of the ruling system.”
Nonetheless, the press, particularly those such as the Iran Daily, owned by the Raisi administration, pretended in glamorous reports that the meeting was an opportunity for Raisi to present a report to students on his performance during the past four months.
Sara Shabani, a student whose picture appeared on the front-page of the daily while making a point during the meeting with Raisi, wrote in a December 9 tweet: "Presenting a report to students? As the person standing next to Raisi in this picture, I wish to say that he put some security-laden labels on the students in the auditorium and told them 'To repent for what they said.' Outside the auditorium, his answers to the students' questions were nothing but insults and humiliation. Do not try to fabricate beautiful pictures and headlines."
Iran Daily, showing president Raisi with student on December 7.
Another student tweeted about the body language in the front-page picture: "The body language is interesting, both Raisi and the chancellor of the university are looking the other way while you are talking to him. Yet another student, Meysam, said that the entire meeting was a show for the media, otherwise individuals such as Raisi never care about the students and what they say.
The Raisi administration has already proven its naivety in the area of putting up "shows" for the media. In a video circulating on social media, his media team filmed the people in overcrowded Iranian taxis reacting to a mock radio news program that says Raisi has been killed in a helicopter crash during a provincial visit.Many of those who posted this video and those who commented on it pointed out that the video has been carefully "directed" and "edited" in a way to prove that young Iranians love Raisi.
While most of what appears to be criticism of Raisi and his administration by young people are about hypocrisy and lies, some media and politicians criticize him for his inaction in foreign and economic policies, co-opting unpopular pro-Ahmadinejad politicians in his cabinet and selecting the members of his team and lower layers of government managers from among his or his aides' relatives.
In one of the latest examples of such critiques, reformist political activist Majid Mohtashami pointed out in an interview with Arman daily on Thursday that the Raisi administration is an example of a populist governmentthat promises to build four million homes in four years.
Mohtashami said that meanwhile, the national currency has fallen 25 percent during Raisi’s first 100 days in office. He added that the president had promised a non-factional administration, but most of his men come from one hardliner group, while new faces in his government were chosen based on kinship rather than merits. This has made Raisi hostage to two oligarchies one made up of relatives and another one formed by the members of pro-Ahmadinejad Paydari Party.