April 15, 2021
The daughter of one of the founding figures of Iran’s clerical establishment said on Monday she intends to boycott the upcoming presidential elections, citing her lack of faith in any reforms from within the establishment.
Faezeh Hashemi, a women’s rights advocate and a former lawmaker said during a virtual conversation on the audio-chat app Clubhouse she would not vote in Iran’s presidential elections even if her own brother – Tehran city council chairman and potential presidential candidate Mohsen Hashemi-Rafsanjani – were to run.
The Clubhouse discussion with Hashemi lasted over six hours, with over 10,000 Iranians listening inside and outside the country.
Hashemi’s father, former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, was one of the founding figures of Iran’s clerical regime. He played a key role in bringing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to power. He died in 2017.
Hashemi said she will boycott the elections because the “reformist” movement in Iran has “hit a dead end.”
Hashemi also said that through this decision, she is protesting reformists for abandoning reformist ideals in order to stay in power.
She added that she is open to changing her mind if a candidate committed to those ideals were to run.
Hashemi is an outspoken critic of the regime inside Iran. She was jailed for six months in 2012 for “spreading anti-state propaganda.”
Iran is due to hold presidential elections on June 18, and several senior Iranian officials have already expressed concern over potentially low voter turnout.
The regime considers turnout critical to its legitimacy on the international stage.
Khamenei has in the past gone as far as saying voting is a “religious duty,” and that people should participate in elections out of “love” for their country, even if they do not like the supreme leader personally.
The Iranian opposition typically urges Iranians to boycott elections, arguing that they do not bring about change and only serve to legitimize the regime. This belief is partially due to Iran’s vetting process for candidates, under which only candidates who are approved by the regime can run for election.
Elections in Iran “fall short of democratic standards due in part to the influence of the hard-line Guardian Council, an unelected body that disqualifies all candidates it deems insufficiently loyal to the clerical establishment,” US democracy watchdog group Freedom House said in its Iran report for 2021.
Iranians blame the regime
The Iranian people hold their own government, not the United States, responsible for their problems, Hashemi said in another part of the virtual discussion, adding that Tehran’s own policies are to blame for sanctions imposed on the country.
“We have sanctions because of our own aggressive policies … Our money is spent on missiles and helping [foreign militias] rather than on medicine that our people need,” Hashemi said.
“People don’t blame [former US President Donald] Trump for sanctions, they blame their own government.”
In January, Hashemi came under attack, primarily from proponents of the regime, for saying a second term for Trump would have been beneficial for Iran.
“For Iran, I would have liked to see Trump [re]-elected. But if I were an American, I wouldn’t vote for Trump,” Hashemi said in an interview with an Iranian news website.
Hashemi said she supported the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the regime in Tehran.
“Maybe if Trump’s pressure would have continued, we would have been forced to have change in some policies. And the change would have definitely benefited the people,” she said.