A recent scandal at the higher echelons of Iran’s ruling elite has revealed the degree of hypocrisy and self-interest dominating the authoritarian clerical system.

Iran International reported about the full-blown scandal involving the female vice president of Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi), Ensieh Khazali, who comes from a tough religious hardliner family. As hardliners condemn the “moral decay” and “indecency” engulfing Western countries, it was revealed that Khazali’s son has emigrated to Canada and has established a lucrative internet company.

That by itself would not have been so embarrassing if critics had not accused Khazali’s son, Hamid Rezazadeh, of being in the business of selling VPNs, software to circumvent Iran’s draconian Internet censorship wall. Critics alleged that he was the owner and software manager at a company called Betternet in Canada.

Khazali, the hardliner politician and her sister, who is another government official, have been on the forefront of advocating strict Islamic norms and defending Iran’s internet censorship that blocks thousands of websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

Iranian social media exploded over these revelations, which many users labeled hypocrisy within the clerical regime. Some traditional media in Tehran followed up with their own reporting. Matters got worse when Khazali began defending her son. First, she said that he is in Canada for a “knowledge-based” project – a favorite term for the regime that tries to find any jargon possible to promise economic miracles amid its dismal record.

Second, after the controversy about Rezazadeh selling VPNs, Khazali and her supporters claimed that he was not marketing the software to Iranians. Then hardliners started to defend Khazali and her son with more outrageous claims.

Screenshote by Rouydad 24 website showing how Rezazadeh deleted his public profile

Hamshahri newspaper, a former reformist publication hijacked by hardliners,claimed that it investigated the matter and Khazali’s son was never involved in selling VPNs, while his own profile said, “Software Manager @Betternet”. Firthermore, there is clear evidence that Betternet’s VPNs are being sold in Iran through intermediaries.

Once the controversy intensified and others insisted that Betternet was in the business of selling VPNs, Rezazadeh deleted his profile on Rocketreach website.

Some hardliners even began arguing that there is nothing wrong with children of officials emigrating to Western countries and ultimately their success would benefit Iran. Some even suggested that family members of top officials residing abroad can help Iran circumvent sanctions.

Rouydad 24, a website relatively independent of Iran’s hardliners wrote that Rezazadeh started a “computer company” several years ago and immediately through family connection he was promoted as technology and IT pioneer on national TV and began receiving lucrative government contracts.

Rezazadeh’s father, Mohammadreza Rezazadeh, is also a well-known hardliner, which has strengthened the family’s connections. Khazali’s father Ayatollah Abolghasem Khazali was an ultra-fundamentalist cleric who held influential positions in the Islamic Republic.

According to Canada’s National Post, Rezazadeh used a federal program called Start-Up Visa (SUV) to receive permanent residency in the country, but for that one needs to secure at least $200,000 from an approved venture capital fund. But that was also arranged. Betternet received funding from Gate Ventures, which was established by an Iranian investor with ties to Iran’s government.

An ordinary Iranian technology entrepreneur could never receive such backing or have $200,000 to start a business in Canada. As a matter of fact many would never even get a visa to go to Canada.

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