By Hessam Ghanatir
October 1, 2019
Reports and videos accusing parliamentarians and government officials of illicit sex are nothing new in Iran, but in recent years the number of accusations has continued to rise. The latest scandal concerns Ahmad Ali Moghimi, a former two-term member of parliament from Behshahr in the northern province of Mazandaran. Before becoming an MP, he held a number of influential jobs, including deputy inspector for the Revolutionary Guards’ Navy and commander of the Guards’ Samen Al-A’eme Training Camp.
Prior to this, a similar video was released that implicated Ali Mohammad Ahmadi, the former governor of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province and a former MP for Dehloran in Ilam province. The settings and the woman in both videos are either the same or very similar to one another.
Websites affiliated with Iranian security agencies suggest a man called Mostafa Mir Shafiei is responsible for the footage. In one video he posted online, Mir Shafiei says that he was a consultant to a number of officials in President Rouhani’s administration and the CEO of the Iranian automaker SAIPA until the intelligence ministry arrested him on “fabricated” charges of espionage. Shafiei says that he was released after a few months and then left Iran. He also claims that Judge Abolghasem Salavati, head of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, has summoned his mother and threatened her that “they would bring back your son’s body.”
In an interview with a news site, Ahmad Ali Moghimi dismissed the video as “fake,” claiming that “individuals that made this video have been arrested and are now in detention [Persian link],” but Iranian media, quoting “an informed source” from the security services, reported that the video is genuine, adding that Moghimi had been in a religiously-approved temporary marriage (concubinage) with the woman in the video. Prior to this, sources close to the former governor of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad had made the same claims.
“The Enemy’s Mercenaries did it”
The anonymous source from Iran’s security services is quoted as saying, “The escaped defendant Mostafa Mir Shafiei, under the direction of the enemy’s intelligence services and by hiring mercenaries inside Iran, has succeeded in surveilling certain former officials. After filming their private relations, he contacts them from abroad and asks for secret information and money. But after Mr. Ahmad Ali Moghimi resisted [his bribes], he released the videos to the public.”
In addition, websites closely linked to the former governor Ali Mohammad Ahmadi reported that “an espionage service has laid in ambush for a long time and by bribing the guard at the housing complex where Ahmadi temporarily lived, installed professional video equipment in his home.”
However, neither of the two former officials were ever important enough for foreign intelligence services to go to such lengths to ensnare them. It is more likely that there are other reasons behind the alleged traps, such as extortion, settling scores, or local opponents acting out of vengeance. According to officials in the city of Babol in Mazandaran, these were among the factors behind the release of sex videos involving a number of members of the city council.
In 2018, a video showing several Babol City Council members engaged in sexual acts with a woman made the headlines, and websites reported that a city official had released the video to damage the reputation of his colleagues within the council. According to these reports, the scandal followed a row that ensued when a faction within the council took the decision to change its governing board in the upcoming election. A member of another faction who did not approve of the change then apparently bribed a woman to trap the people who made the decision. [Persian link].
“These individuals inside the city council colluded with some non-member individuals, dragged a woman into prostitution, set a trap and spent a lot of money on bribes to make their immoral videos,” said Hasan Mojtaba Rouhani, Babol’s Friday Imam.
In August of this year, Mohammad Sadegh Akbari, Director General of Mazandaran Justice Department, announced that “former members of Babol City Council have been sentenced to a total of 19 years in prison, 33 years’ deprivation of social rights and 540 lashes.”
In recent months, a sex video of Abbas Malekzadeh, the former mayor of Sadra near Shiraz was also released. Malekzadeh had been arrested on financial misconduct charges.
Sex tapes featuring government officials are a relatively new phenomenon, but reports about the moral corruption of government officials and members of the parliament have a long history. Apart from Ahmad Ali Moghimi, another former member of the parliament for Behshahr, Mohammad Hasan Jamshidi, was arrested for “moral corruption” while he was still in office [Persian link]. He was reportedly arrested by Mazandaran intelligence department agents at a house along with a group of women and other men.
Hasan Seyed Abadi, a representative from Sabzevar in Razavi Khorasan, was also arrested for “moral corruption.”
Suspicious Death after Accusing an MP of Rape
But a bigger scandal is linked to Salam Khodadadi, the representative from Malekan in East Azerbaijan who is also chairman of the parliament’s Social Affairs Committee and a former adviser to Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. He was accused of raping at least four women, including Zahra Navidpour, who died under suspicious circumstances in January 2019 after she had accused Khodadadi of rape. The medical examiner gave no reason for her death, giving rise to speculation that she had committed suicide — or even been murdered.
Navidpour went public with a recording of a phone call between Khodadadi and herself in which the MP can be heard threatening her and also begging her to retract her complaint. She refused, and on October 18, 2018, she wrote a letter to Judge Babaee at Branch 5 of Tehran’s Criminal Court, informing him of Khodadadi’s persistent threats against her, and of threats against her by others on his behalf. She told the judge that she believed her life was in danger.
When Navidpour lost all hope that neither the parliament’s disciplinary board or the Iranian judiciary would act on her complaint, in November 2018, she told her story to the Chicago-based Gunaz TV [Persian video].
The two recently-released sex videos of former members of the parliament could be a harbinger of more videos being made public, and the emergence of more scandals involving Iranian officials and members of the parliament.