People enter the State Department Building in Washington, US, January 26, 2017.

Iranians Continue To Voice Anger At US State Department Instagram Post

Sunday, 03/24/2024

The backlash by Iranians to a US State Department post on Instagram continued Saturday with 80 Iranian-American activists and citizens urging the Secretary of State to have it removed.

“It is deeply concerning that the US State Department would endorse and promote an individual with such tainted history and character as a defender of Iranian women,” the signatories write in their open letter. “This decision undermines the credibility of the United States in advocating for human rights and democracy… in Iran.”

The ‘individual’ in question is Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former member of parliament in Iran and daughter to a former president of the Islamic Republic. In recent years, she has become a critic of government policies and has voiced support for women's rights. She has been hailed as a “champion of women rights across Iran” by the State Department’s official account in Persian @USAbehFarsi.

“Ms. Rafsanjani is against compulsory hijab, supports women's rights and defends other prisoners whom she considers innocent,” reads the original State Department post. “Even when her rights were violated, Ms Rafsanjani bravely fought for the rights of others.”

The post was received by anger and disbelief among Iranians, who felt the choice was “at best distasteful”, given that Ms. Rafsanjani’s father, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was the main architect of the regime and at the heart of its every malign activity –inside Iran and overseas– for almost four decades.

“The Islamic Republic regime routinely imprisons individuals within the establishment for minor disagreements, and Mrs. Hashemi Rafsanjani's situation appears to be part of an internal power struggle, rather than genuine commitment to justice on either party,” reads the letter to Secretary Blinken. “We urge you to… support individuals who genuinely champion the rights and freedoms of all Iranians –women and men– and their struggles for a secular, democratic Iran.”

Faezeh Rafsanjani, daughter of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

The sentiment in the letter was shared by many Iranians who have moved on from the Reformist-Fundamentalist duality of regime insiders to reject the Islamic Republic in its entirety. In this view, Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani is ultimately an “insider” with unmatched privilege in her social and political life, despite her having become a critic of regime policies. Hence the outrage at the State Department’s decision to pick and promote her.

Within a few hours of appearing on Instagram, the Faezeh Hashemi post received just under 5,000 comments, overwhelmingly negative, which forced the account’s administrator to close the comments section. The backlash continued, nonetheless, spilling over to other platforms such as X.

Most notably, several members of the families who have lost loved ones in recent anti-regime protests took to social media to vent their anger, frustration, and often bafflement at the Biden administration’s Iran policy.

“No doubt that the US State Department is consciously walking alongside the Islamic Republic towards common goals,” posted Saeed Afkari, a brother to Navid Afkari, who was executed in 2020 at the age of 27, for protesting, despite pleading innocence in the face of severe mental and physical torture.

Saba Bakhtyari, whose brother and sister-in-law are in prison for speaking against the killing of their son, Pouya, was another of the Families for Justice who denounced the US government and their Instagram post.

“For us who seek justice, there’s no difference between Faezeh Rafsanjani, [current President] Raisi, and [Supreme Leader] Khamenei,” she wrote on her account on X. “And the fact that the US State Department has called one of our killers brave, proves that the US, just like 1979, is still a friend of the mullahs and an enemy of the people of Iran.”

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