BBC Persian report spotlights the most important events of 2016 for Iran

Revelations that senior Iranian government employees were being paid astronomical salaries have made a major splash in Iran, rocking the country, with Rouhani’s government apologizing to the public and vowing to eradicate corruption.

The government insists, however, that the roots of the corruption date back to the previous administration, amid reports that senior civil servants have been receiving massive bribes from shadowy external sources on top of their state salaries.

According to Iranian news outlets, a recent corruption scandal surrounding Tehran City Council involved prime state-owned real estate in the capital worth more than 2,000 billion dollars being sold to high-level figures, including senior government officials, for less than half of the market cost, prompting widespread public fury.

The judiciary has announced that it will evaluate the evidence in the case, although parliament has rejected requests for an investigation of the municipal corruption, with the mayor and various city council members insisting that the figures involved have been exaggerated.

Meanwhile, in an open letter to Rouhani, Mehdi Karroubi, a former Iranian Presidential candidate and one of the leaders of the opposition Green Movement of 2009, who has been under house arrest for more than six years, called on the president to make his trial a public and open one [based on Article 168 of the Iranian Constitution].

Karroubi is not alone, with two other leaders of the 2009 Green Movement uprising, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard, also under house arrest for over six years.

In other news, Russia’s use of an Iranian air base to bomb the Syrian opposition standing against Bashar al-Assad in Syria has begun to arouse controversy in Iran, with critics asserting that this is contrary to the state’s constitution, which bans the establishment of any foreign military bases in the country.  

Senior regime officials have insisted, however, that the constitution has not been violated, adding that Russian warplanes will be allowed to use Hamadan province’s Noja Airbase again in the future.

 On another issue, three members of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s Cabinet were replaced following their resignation [on Oct. 19. 2016]. These were respectively Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati, Education Minister Ali Asghar Fani, and Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Mahmoud Goudarzi, who all resigned on the same day.

Jannati wrote in his resignation letter that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, more than other state ministries, has come under attack and furious opposition from its critics [among reformists and moderates.

One of the most controversial issues during Jannati’s ministerial tenure  was  the ministry’s consecutive cancellations of a number of concerts, despite the event organizers having obtained legal licenses [from Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance

In other news, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speaking tours of various provinces and his self-promotion, along with widespread publicity for the events from his fans, indicated his wish to return to presidential office; the former president later withdrew his candidacy, however, after his participation in the election campaign was rejected by the Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei.

Referring ironically to his supposed great popularity, Ahmadinejad announced that he would not be standing, saying, “I am standing here just because I belong to the people

Khamenei has made it clear that Ahmadinejad will not be welcome to run for elections in future, suggesting that he would lead to divisions among the electorate

Another major item of recent news in Iran was the passing away of the chairperson of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died aged 83.   Rafsanjani was one of Iran’s oldest and most venerable political figures, a key component, and co-founder of the Islamic Republic.

Following the events of the hotly disputed 2009 election, however, relations between Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Khamenei became far colder and he came under bitter attack by Khamenei’s supporters in an unprecedented fashion, as did Rouhani.

[The long awaited] ‘Citizens’ Rights Charter’, promised by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for some years, was finally unveiled on December 19. Critics said that the new and untested charter [Dec. 19] is not worth much, while others suggested that the document is simply a PR ploy in advance of the upcoming presidential elections, [set to take place in May 2017.

While the UN Human Rights Rapporteur for Iran welcomed the new charter as a positive step. He referred critically to the number of executions, arrests, social restrictions, and instances of discrimination on the grounds of religion, ethnicity, and gender, asserting that any meaningful improvement in the human rights situation in Iran requires profound legal and structural changes.

 Report by Majid Khayam Dar, BBC Persian