By Maysam Bizaer
Iran’s high-living aghazadehs — a satirical moniker for the offsprings of the Iranian ruling class — have an outspoken critic in a young cleric from Qom who uses their favorite medium — Instagram — to name and shame those who flaunt their luxurious lifestyles or land cushy jobs.
With 233,000 followers, Seyed Mahdi Sadrossadati has become the icon of a “no to aristocracy” campaign in Iran. Since the beginning of this year, he has been sharing the pictures and videos of some Iranian officials or their relatives living in luxury. His accompanying critical remarks have been “liked” by thousands of Iranians.
The 31-year-old cleric, who is a father of two, has been outspoken and active in other social causes such as raising money to buy food and other goods for the needy.
His exposure campaign spares neither end of the political spectrum or even the clergy. On Feb. 25, he posted a picture of Mohammad Naghi Lotfi, the Friday Prayer Imam in the western province of Ilam — the highest representative figure of Iran’s Supreme Leader in the province — who rides in a foreign-made luxury car. His comment next to the photo reads, “Before the revolution many of our scholars were exiled in remote villages and towns and they used to ride donkeys, just like farmers. Now after the revolution, the farmers still ride the same donkey. [So, do we], as simple clerics, ride in a Prado for the sake of our safety and prestige? Is this what our martyrs gave their lives for?”
Four decades ago, the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Khomeini, led a popular uprising against high-living Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. He promised equality and social justice and to advocate for the rights of the poor. True to his vows, he led a modest and simple way of life and issued repeated warnings to Iranian officials to refrain from a luxuries, but the situation began to change following his death in 1989. The late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997, and his children are widely considered to represent the first generation of Iranian elites to turn away from these modest values. Currently, the circle has now grown so big that a very large number of officials or their children (including even those from the ultra-conservative side) are now accused of abandoning the values of the revolution.