Many of Hashemi's remarks reflect the school of thought associated with the late Hashemi Rafsanjani, at odds with the more offensive, confrontational, revolutionary, and ideological schools of thought mostly, but not exclusively, advocated by Iran’s hardliners.

Last but not least, when evoking the role of U.S. sanctions in particular and that of external powers in general for explaining Iran’s domestic problems, Hashemi mentioned the protests that swept the nation during the Rouhani era, asking if anyone had heard the protesters chanting "death to America" – arguably the core chant of the Islamic Republic.

And yet, this chant was not only absent during the anti-regime upheavals, it was replaced by the powerful slogan “Our enemy is right at home, they always say it’s America” (Doshman-e ma haminjast, hamash migan Amrikast). Hashemi's conclusion: the Iranian people are aware that the key problem "lies elsewhere" – hinting at the current Iranian leadership, headed by Khamenei and the IRGC.

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Accused of "mourning Trump on the anniversary of her father's death"

Against this background, reactions to her interview were quite predictable. Unsurprisingly, she found herself under fire from the Islamic Republic’s hardliners and fundamentalists; after all, much of her criticism was a thinly veiled questioning of their performance.

 

The editor-in-chief of Iran's hardline daily Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari, wrote that precisely at a time when America finds herself in a severe crisis of identity, with even the most renowned U.S. political figures admitting that the States are at a particularly low ebb, a number of Western-oriented forces appeared to have tied their fortunes to the Trump White House and were applauding its policies.

Moreover, the front page of the ultra-conservative daily Vatan-e Emrooz flatly accused her of "mourning Trump on the anniversary of her father's death". The front page’s main headline, "Security or freedom?" was a poignant reminder of the thinking of this political camp, which regards freedom as anathema to security.

Ever since Faezeh Hashemi began engaging in promoting women’s rights, this sharp-tongued and outspoken prominent daughter has been a thorn in the side of Iranian hardliners. She founded the first-ever women’s paper in Iran – the weekly Zan (lit. "Woman") in July 1998. The publication survived less than a year and was banned in April 1999, as a result of powerful hardline opposition.

In January 2012, she was sentenced to six months in prison for "propaganda against the ruling system". In May 2016, a political storm followed after she met the leader of the outlawed Baha'i faith. And more recently, a year ago, in the wake of the November 2019 protests that were put down with unprecedented brute force by regime forces, she reportedly called upon the Supreme Leader to resign to open the way for structural reforms to take place.

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"Honestly reflecting the sentiments of millions"…
 
On the other hand, Sadeq Zibakalam, a prominent Tehran University politics professor, who has repeatedly voiced similar criticism and is considered to be part of the "Rafsanjani camp", rushed to Hashemi’s defence against a flurry of attacks against her. On social media, he wrote that she "has honestly reflected the sentiments of millions of her compatriots". The editor-in-chief of Etemad Online tweeted that her statements, "whether right or wrong", were an "inalienable right", and her opponents should be free to respond to the content, rather than engage in "character assassination".
 

Meanwhile, her brother Mohsen Hashemi, in an open letter, asked her to apologise for her statements, as they would pave the way for further attacks on their late father. He added that her remarks had also offended the Rafsanjani family and its supporters. This move was widely seen as stemming from the presidential ambitions harboured by the current Chairman of the City Council of Tehran for the upcoming elections in June. Responding to his appeal in an interview with Khabar Online, she said her brother was the most conservative member of the family and sought to control them all.

…or merely the semblance of common sympathy?

Despite the accuracy of much of her criticism and the factional rivalry within the Islamic Republic’s elite, the interview conducted by Ensaf News, a reformist media outlet believed to have ties with Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence, should be taken with a grain of salt.

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