Many have accused a female social media influencer who visited Iran in a 'fam trip' of distorting reality in the Islamic Republic in an "arranged visit".
‘Fam trip’ (familiarization trip) is nothing new in Iran. For years the Islamic Republic has been using foreign reporters in Iran and sometimes arranged visits by famous travel documentary filmmakers to create a "beautified" image of the Islamic Republic for viewers in other countries.
The intent is averting often self-inflicted propaganda that portrayed the Islamic Republic as a country where the government had no respect for human rights and people including children watched executions in the streets, government officers cut off criminals’ limbs in public and chastity police harassed and battered women whose headscarf and dress was considered to be indecent.
During the past week, almost the entire Persian social media turned against Hoda Rostami, a young woman living abroad, and a social media influencer, who took a ‘fam trip’ to Iran and published her own or other female tourists' images next to mosques, ancient relics and even the notorious Evin prison on social media, particularly on her Instagram page, which has some 46,000 followers.
According to Rouydad24 news website in Iran, Rostami beautifies all ugly things on this page and her images of women in the Iranian society, with attire that would otherwise illicit a tough response from the police. Her presentation of supposed freedoms is inconsistent with the reality on the ground. The website added that the Iranian police will stop anyone else doing the same in those places. The website also questioned how she and other women in her photos can be in public without any objection by the police.
Social media users accused Rostami of "normalizing misery," while some even said that what she was doing was "blood washing" meaning that she was washing the blood off the hands of the Islamic Republic, when security forces have killed hundreds of protesters in recent years who were demanding freedoms she portrays as existing in Iran. In many of those images Rostami and her "guests" are seen in public with no hijab, although ordinary people will be arrested on the spot.
She also revealed after being criticized by netizens that she had meetings with state officials at ministerial level to facilitate the fam trips.
Last week, investigative reporters on social media found out that Hoda Rostami, now reportedly a citizen of Sweden, was in fact born in Iraq and that her father is a senior figure in Hashd al-Sha'bi, an Iranian proxy militia group in Iraq.
Some on social media said that lived in Iran for several years adecade ago, learned Persian and run tours for foreigneres. Apparently her original Iraqi name is Hoda Jabbar Karim.
Many have pointed out that her pictures showing Iranian women at the seaside are flat and fabricated lies. Rouydad24 reminded that two mosques and ancient sites were shut down in Shiraz two years ago only because some tourists were not wearing the kind of dress consistent with compulsory hijab rules. The website also reminded that in some mosques visitors are even not allowed to have their cameras with them.
Recently, the Russian ambassador to Tehran said that what stopped Russian tourists from visiting Iran was compulsory hijab and the fact that drinking alcohol is prohibited in Iran.
Hoda Rostami previously objected to similar comments when they were meant to prove her wrong, but she has been silent after her Iraqi identity and her links with some Iranian state officials have been disclosed.
A social media user wrote that she was arrested in Iran's Qeshm Island because she was there in the same kind of outfit used by Rostami. She wrote: "Iran is much different from what Hoda portrays."