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As Sanctions Return, Iranians Are Increasingly Critical of Political Elites on Social Media

Ordinary Iranians on social media are increasingly expressing their frustration with the nation’s privileged political class, as new sanctions take hold, Reuters reported Wednesday.

A deteriorating economy sparked nationwide protests beginning late last year, but Iranians are “increasingly pointing fingers at the rich and powerful, including clerics, diplomats, officials and their families,” according to Reuters.

A cleric named Seyed Mahdi Sadrossadati has amassed 256,000 followers on Instagram, criticizing the lavish lifestyles of children of Iran’s wealthy, politically-connected elite. In one instance, Sadrossadati posted a photograph of an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander and his son posing in front of a tiger, lying down in a mansion.

“A house tiger? What’s going on?” the cleric demanded. “And this from a 25-year-old youth who could not gain such wealth. People are having serious difficulty getting diapers for their child.”

Reuters characterized the criticism of the family of a commander in the elite force backed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a “rare act of defiance.”

The exchange rate for the Iranian rial is now 149,000 for one dollar on the black market. At the beginning of 2018, the exchange rate was 43,000. The withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal in May and the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran have prompted companies to stop doing business Iran or stay away in the first place.

Sadrossadati also posts videos of himself challenging the subjects of his criticism. In one video that the cleric posted, he questioned Mehdi Mazaheri, the son of Iran’s former central banker, about a gold watch he was wearing in a picture that appeared on social media. “How did you get rich? How much money did you start out with and how much money do you have now? How many loans have you taken?” Sadrossadati demanded of the young man. Mazaheri responded by saying that he’d be willing to share documents about his wealth.

In one case, a well-known cleric resigned from his position after facing criticism for enjoying a lavish lifestyle, while ordinary Iranians were forced to make do with less during the economic crisis.

Mohammad Naghi Lotfi, who had the prestigious position of leading Friday prayers in the western Iranian city of Ilam for eighteen years, stepped down after he was photographed leaving a luxury vehicle.

The term “aghazadehs” is used to mock those who were born into well-connected wealthy families.

Earlier this year, an outcry arose when pictures of the lavish wedding between Amir Mohsen Moradian, the son of Iran’s ambassador to Denmark, and fashion model and designer, Anashid Hosseini, were published on social media.

A website called Fararu pointed out that the extravagant wedding was being held when an estimated 12 million eligible Iranian singles cannot marry because they don’t have the resources for a wedding.

[Photo: mehdi pezhvak / YouTube ]