Ramifications of a scandal surrounding Iran’s parliament speaker continue, with accusations that his family bought two apartments in Turkey in a recent trip.
An Iranian journalist living in Turkey, Amirhossein Miresmaili, tweeted on April 21 that speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf’s wife, daughter and sone-in-law who had gone shopping in Istanbul bought two luxury apartments in a famous complex for a total price of 400 billion Iranian rials or $1.6 million.
Miresmaili told Iran International that three days after he revealed the real estate purchase, the Ghalibaf’s have not denied the report, although another journalist residing in Iran has repeated the allegation. He insisted that Iranians in Turkey had seen the family at the Sky Land high rises in Istanbul and the apartments were bought in someone else’s name.
The Ghalibaf family scandal broke when videos emerged that they were having arguments in Istanbul airport for overweight luggage, and it became clear that they had bought luxury items for a baby on the way for Ghalibaf’s daughter. Later a journalist in Iran who had first exposed the shopping trip said that Ghalibafs had returned with more than 20 pieces of luggage.
The parliament speaker’s son and assistant went into damage control mode, expressing regret and Fars news agency affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard tried to deny the shopping trip, but no one believed the denial and the attempt soon died down. Calls for Ghaliaf’s resignation rang out loud in Tehran, but the final arbiter of such issues, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has remained silent.
Ghalibaf has been involved in numerous financial corruption cases, especially during his tenure as Tehran mayor from 2005-2017. As a former Revolutionary Guard general, in many of his corruption cases there is a thread to other high ranking IRGC figures, including Qasem Soleimani, killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in 2020.
Iran is in a four-day religious holiday and newspapers are not published while politicians and most journalist enjoy the free time probably on the Caspian seashore, far away from the capital. To what extent the apartment shopping allegation will gain traction once the holiday is over, is hard to say, but serious damage has been done to both Ghalibaf and the domestic image of the Islamic Republic, already mired by numerous previous cases of corruption and embezzlement by top officials and regime insiders.
One of the interesting public debates that ensued after the news about Ghalibaf’s scandal was a view expressed by political commentator Sadeq Zibakalam, a former revolutionary turned regime critic, who said luxury shopping abroad is not a crime in itself and many Iranians aspire to live a better life. The issue he said is with whose money such adventures are financed. Nevertheless, many on social media criticized Zibakalam for apparently defending Ghalibaf, which he subsequently denied, saying he simply did not want to kick him while he was down.
But apparently there are others who would not hesitate to stab Ghalibaf while he is wounded. Soon there will be a vote to elect a new parliament speaker and ‘revolutionary’ hardliners would be happy to steal the seat from Ghalibaf.