Rouhani administration battles hardliners over claims of dual nationalism

In 2018, a report by parliament's Investigation and Probe Committee on dual citizenship said that a “top official” in a “very high and important position” has British nationality.

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July 25, 2019 12:37
4 minute read.
Rouhani administration battles hardliners over claims of dual nationalism

A view of the parliament in Tehran, Iran. (photo credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)

President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff dismissed as baseless a list of alleged dual nationals in the Rouhani administration published by hardliners in the Iranian government, according to Radio Farda.

“We are delighted that they have published the list," Mahmoud Vaezi said. "The list shows how baseless are the allegations."
Vaezi added that the list is based on guesswork and is not backed up by any hard evidence.


Massoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's Vice President of Women’s Affairs, also dismissed the claims about her being a dual national as a “lie.” She was the spokeswoman for the students who took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days after the Islamic Revolution. 


Ebtekar’s son, Eissa Hashemi, lives in the United States and is a doctoral student at the Los Angeles branch of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.


Instagram posts by Hashemi show him spending time at the beach and visiting US landmarks such as the San Francisco National Cemetery, where tens of thousands of US military veterans are buried.


In an interview with Thames Television during the 1979 hostage crisis, Ebtekar explained why the students were holding the diplomats hostage. “The US is an imperial power. They work for their own profit. The Shah turned this country into a ruin.” 


When asked if she could “personally lift up a gun and put it to the head of one of these people and kill them?” She quickly replied, “Yes… Oppression and tyranny must be destroyed.”


“Iranian officials are hypocritical, even these moderate figures,” said one Iranian engineer about the news that Hashemi is studying in the US. He had also wanted to learn there, but the lack of an American embassy in Tehran and hostile relations between the two countries made it too difficult.


"[Ebtekar] and her husband built their career on yelling 'Death to America,'" said US State Department official John Limbert, who was one of those held hostage by Ebtekar in 1979.
 
"Aren't they ashamed of themselves?" Limbert asked. "It would be okay if they would simply say we screwed up."


“They praise the achievements of the revolution and attack the immorality of the US, while sending their children to live and study in the US,” explained Karim Sadjadpour, senior Iran analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to RFE/RL.


Javad Karimi Qoddoussi said last week that he would publish a list of dual nationals prepared by the Iranian parliament’s Investigation and Probe Committee.


Several websites published a list of 71 people identified as dual nationals, including former and current Iranian officials, university lecturers, members of the Chamber of Commerce, and their close relatives.


The issue of officials holding dual citizenship arose after the head of Iran’s National Bank, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, fled Iran in 2011 after news broke of his involvement in a $2.6 billion embezzlement scandal.


Last August, it was announced in a presentation of the committee's report on dual citizenship that a “top official” in a “very high and important position” has British nationality. That list was never published.

The report also claimed that "many children" of top Iranian officials have received citizenship abroad and are now active in Iran's public and economic sectors without having renounced their new nationalities. 


Abolfazl Torabi, a hardline MP and member of the committee, claimed that one of the country’s top officials received British citizenship while studying in Scotland. According to Radio Farda, this was interpreted as an attack on Rouhani, who studied in Scotland.


Mojtaba Zonnour, another hardliner and cleric, insisted that Rouhani’s son had British and Canadian citizenship. A presidential aide dismissed the claim as unfounded. 


The cleric went further in an interview with a pro-reform Iranian daily, claiming that families of the Iranian elite received 2,500 green cards from former US president Barack Obama to gain favor with the Iranian nuclear-negotiation team. Former Obama administration officials denied the claim.


Zonnour claimed that only 30 to 40 children of Iranian officials are studying in the US, while the majority are “wasting Iranian public funds living extravagant lives” in America.

In December, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said in a video on the State Department's Persian language website that he had received many messages from Iranians asking why the relatives of Islamic republic officials have not been deported or had their visas revoked, Farda reported.


“I have to admit that this is another example of the hypocrisy of the regime," Hook answered. “While regime officials chant ‘Death to America’, they send their families to the so called ‘Great Satan’ to live and study here, using the resources of the Iranian people.”


Hook confirmed that the administration is working on addressing this issue, adding that "we are pursuing all options to pressure the corrupt officials – [who are] hypocrites – in your government to change their behavior."


Last year, families of Americans being held in Iran gave the US government a list of relatives of top Iranian officials living and studying in America, including Rouhani's nephew, who studied at the City College of New York and now works in the city. Ebtekar's son is also on the list.


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