September 8, 2021
Loathed by Iran’s moderates, television spy series “Gando” with its plots mirroring the headlines has gone back on air since ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi’s election victory.
Named after a local species of crocodile known to ambush its prey, Gando’s stars are counter-espionage agents of the Revolutionary Guard, operating from a control room festooned with monitors, much like in the US thriller “24.”
The series is lauded by ultra-conservatives, but the real draw for many — and the possible reason why state television pulled it for several months before its return in July — has been its attacks on former President Hassan Rouhani’s government.
In March, the sixth episode of Gando’s second season triggered fierce debate with a plot line featuring a spy among Iran’s nuclear negotiators.
By the 13th episode of the show, broadcast five days a week, the plug was pulled without explanation.
It had been portraying the government, especially the Foreign Ministry, as packed with weak figures, cowards and the corrupt.
In contrast, protagonist Mohammad — the counter-espionage hero of the Guards — is shown shadowing foreign agents from the moment they reach Iranian soil, especially spies from Britain’s MI6.
Last month, Iran’s judiciary authority announced that two people had been convicted, one for corruption and another for espionage, after verification of certain “revelations” made in the series.
The show itself was widely seen by commentators in Iran as part of efforts to undermine Rouhani.
Rouhani’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, one of the figures ridiculed in the series, said it was nothing but “lies from beginning to end” and had damaged him personally.
For its part, the ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan in August hailed the “revelations” made in Gando, including of alleged links between senior officials and foreign missions, “in particular the British Embassy.”
One character, British spy Charlotte who is in Tehran under cover as a diplomat, is played by Beaina Mahmoudi, a member of Iran’s Armenian Christian minority.