Debates at the Iranian parliament (Majles) on Wednesday August 8 shed light on a web of alleged corruption, blackmailing, embezzlement, bribery and mishandling of public funds, Iranian press and social media activists say.
Accusations and counter-accusations traded by former labor minister Ali Rabiei and several members of the Majles during the minister’s impeachment session were so gross that parliament Speaker Ali Larijani had to stop the heated debates and send reporters out for half an hour.
What Larijani told the MPs and the former minister did not seem to have worked, as accusations continued in the fierce debate that followed the unplanned intermission.
At the end of the session, after the Majles took back its vote of confidence and dismissed the minister from President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet, Larijani said “although accusations are common practice in the Islamic Republic, the Majles would probe into the charges the two sides made against each other,” official news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.
Few would believe his statement as even more serious accusations were made by the six presidential candidates, including Rouhani, during the televised campaigns ahead of the 2017 presidential race, which were simply swept under the rug.
Even before that, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed a video of one of Larijani’s brothers forging an illicit deal. The video contained incriminating charges against at least two of Larjani’s brothers. Nevertheless, the case was never brought to court.
Some of top state officials’ family members are implicated in corruption cases and even briefly jailed. But people see them walking free, sooner rather than later. Reporters usually ask Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Ejei about the fate of charges against such close relatives and hear that the cases are being investigated.
As the charges remain unanswered, the conclusion for the public is that everyone is corrupt and young social media users are never shy or intimidated to pronounce it.
Many of the slogans chanted by protesters in anti-government demonstrations during the past eight months are against widespread corruption in Iran. Rouhani repeated the word “corruption” several times in his latest interview on state TV on Tuesday, but it appears that the word always hits the “deaf spot” and goes nowhere beyond populist speeches and interviews.
This was the second time the Majles was questioning Rabiei in less than one year. In the previous time, the Majles saved his post in the cabinet with the edge of only one vote.
Rabiei was accused by several MPs of “grafting” and “buying support” at the Majles, and he responded that some of the MPs tried to blackmail him, threatening him of impeachment and demanding cash or high positions for their relatives.
He said “They even did not fear Ebad” while asking for money or favor. Ebad was (and probably still is as he hinted himself) Rabiei’s undercover name as a top intelligence operative. He was deputy intelligence minister under President Mohammad Khatami, but documents leaked in the media indicate he was a top operative well known in the Iranian intelligence community long before his appointment as deputy minister in the 1990s.
Larijani admitted that “levelling accusations started from election debates and harmed the society to a great extent.”
Meanwhile he called on Rabiei to name those who tried to blackmail him.
During the Majles session on Wednesday, several MPs accused other members of Parliament of corruption, bribery and blackmailing.
Social media users accused Rabiei during the week preceding his impeachment to have bribed several reformist newspapers that furthered a publicity stunt including publishing large pictures of him on their front-pages.
During his term of office as labor minister, Rabiei was also in charge of the workers’ pension fund and other financial organizations that owned a major airline and at least one super tanker that sank near China last year.