A group of Iranian lawmakers has come under fire from citizens for appearing too eager to take selfies with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini while she was in Tehran to attend the inauguration of President Rouhani. Mogherini was among dozens of foreign officials in attendance as Rohani was inaugurated for his second term on August 5, and the Italian politician’s presence did not go unnoticed.
Photos have subsequently emerged showing the senior EU official surrounded by mobile phone-wielding Iranian lawmakers crowding to snap a selfie with her — some arching themselves uncomfortably over desks to squeeze into the frame, others waving frantically at her to attract her attention. The images have led to criticism in the country’s press as well as on social media. Some have suggested the lawmakers embarrassed and humiliated themselves over their behavior.
In this report, an Iranian TV reporter conducts an informal vox pop survey of Iranian citizens about the subject, asking them what they think of the officials’ behavior.
Approaching a couple of young Iranians walking down the street, the reporter begins: “Sir, yesterday was President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration, from which a series of selfie pictures taken by our parliamentary representatives [with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini] have emerged and gone on viral on social networks, getting many reactions!” One of the two youths responds, “I haven’t seen the pictures”. The reporter echoes him, asking, “You didn’t see the pictures?”, to which the man says, “No!”
The reporter then says, “Now, I’d like to show you the pictures and I want to know what are your opinions and your feeling on seeing such pictures.”
One of the young men points scornfully to one of the regime officials in one photo who was clearly trying hard to get Mogherini’s attention, waving to her while clutching his mobile, desperate to take a selfie with her. The interviewee says to the reporter, “Oh sir, this is very bad – this man is stretching out his hand in order to be seen by her [Mogherini]”.
The reporter continued showing the pictures to many other citizens, including young men and women, who look embarrassed at the desperation of the regime officials, murmuring in dismay as they view the pictures.
One young man simply says drily, “Very interesting”,
A female interviewee, looking at the pictures, gives a resigned smile as she nods slowly at the display of fandom by regime officials behaving like love-struck teenagers, saying only “What can I say?” She adds, “I can only nod my head as a sign of regret” [an indication of embarrassment and shame].”
One young university student says, “I don’t have any words,” while another young man says sarcastically, “The picture is clear anyway.”
Another interviewee openly laughs at the images, saying, “It’s not interesting to me, I just got a total shock. To tell the truth, it demonstrates the sign of awkwardness.”
One young man looks bemused at the photos, saying wonderingly, “It means that either we have a civil shortage or… well, I don’t know how to explain it!”
One man gets visibly annoyed at the officials’ fawning over Mogherini, saying, “It’s not suitable for our official representatives to behave in such a way with an official foreign representative.”
The aforementioned young woman is shown saying, “Well, that sort of behavior might be acceptable for teenagers aged 15 or 16 – but not for sophisticated officials and supposedly veteran politicians.”
One of the young men heard earlier says, “They should at least have adhered to the protocols of diplomatic etiquette. I think it resulted in giving a bad impression of our officials.”
Another of the interviewees adds to his earlier statement, saying, “Or at least if they need to take such pictures, let them prepare a suitable environment or a platform to stand on for taking these pictures.”
As the reporter shows the photos to one of the interviewees seen earlier, he asks the young man, “What do you think the officials are so excited about? Is it that exciting to see Mrs. Federica Mogherini?” The young man laughs in response, saying, “Well it’s not that intensely thrilling, but this man [the regime official] has become really excited!”
Returning to the interview with the young woman, the reporter asks the same question: “What’s the reason behind the intense enthusiasm of our representative officials? Is it because they haven’t seen a woman before? Or is it due to the fact they’ve never seen Mrs. Federica Mogherini close up?” The young woman smiles as she responds: “Both! They haven’t seen such a beautiful woman, and they haven’t seen Mrs. Mogherini nearby.”
Another young man jokingly says, “Well let’s see the officials hang around in the streets, and if a woman shows loose behavior, they can be as loose with her too.”
The reporter is then seen laughingly asking one of the young men he interviewed earlier, “Who do they want to show these pictures to? To their family members?” The young man replies, “Well honestly, they’ll definitely show it to their family members. Look at this picture – this poor man was nearly falling over [from excitement and from stretching to take a photo of Mogherini]. However, she [Mogherini] still didn’t pay attention to him!”
The report switches back to the young woman, as the reporter asks her, “Would you ‘like’ such pictures if you saw them on social media networks?” to which she answers adamantly, “Never ever!”
We then see him asking the same question to one of the young male interviewees: “Do you put ‘like’ on these pictures on social media?” The young man is equally firm in his response, saying, “If I saw them, no, I wouldn’t ‘like’ them.”
The reporter asks a third interviewee, “Would you put ‘like’ under such pictures?” to which the young man responds dismissively, “No, I wouldn’t even look at them.” “Would you leave a comment under it?” the reporter asks him. The young man responds, “No, never.”
Another of the interviewees says: “There’s no comment that can be put under such pictures; they’re a cause of shame.”
This comment is echoed by another of the young men interviewed about the pictures, with the reporter asking him, “What comment would you put under such pictures?” He answers simply, “Just ‘shame’.”
We then see the young woman obviously answering the same question, saying, “Just ‘I am sorry.’”
One of the interviewees is seen telling the reporter, “Anyone who gets into the parliament likely holds a Master’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree or higher than that; an individual who’s gained a university degree should have some character.”
We see another of the young men interviewed saying, “I’m not saying that an official representative needs to behave, like, with a diplomatic manner, but this behavior from them was not appropriate.”
Another interviewee says, “I’ve got a baby who’s one year and seven months old. If he behaves that way, it suits him – when he gets near females he gets excited and that’s appropriate for him, but this behavior isn’t proper for such officials who have university degrees and government credentials, who were voted for by the people.”
One of the young men interviewed compares the regime officials behavior to that of sports fans meeting a favourite sportsman, saying, “If, right now, Ali Karimi [a famous Iranian national footballer] passes by here maybe you and I, as young men, would go and stand and take our pictures with him, but it’s very different when it comes to a representative official of people who, by the votes of the people, goes and takes pictures with officials from the EU Parliament. I don’t mean that this person [Mogherini]] is bad – let’s suppose she agrees with all the Iranian government’s policies – but jumping in front of her and arching your body to take pictures with her isn’t proper.”
The reporter asks another of the interviewees, “Does such behavior bring honor [dignity] to the Iranian people? The young man responds, “Well, the status of our representatives in parliament shows something else; when we see our representatives falling asleep while passing a law in parliament, then there’s no expectations of them in this regard.”
One of the young men is seen remarking drily, “Maybe this sort of entertainment for officials is the cause of them falling behind in the work they need to do.”
The interviewee who commented on the MPs sleeping in parliament continues, saying, “Well look, when our representative sleeps in parliament while creating legislation then jumps up to take selfie pictures, what expectations should we have of them in terms of issues like putting our young people to work [resolving the unemployment crisis facing young Iranians] and making our country’s situation better than the current conditions?”
The footage switches back to the young woman, who says in a resigned tone, “but I wasn’t surprised at seeing their behavior.” The reporter asks her “Why?” and she responds simply, “We didn’t expect any more than this from them, did we?”
The last comment is left to one of the interviewees who says: “It’s because of our fault and our faults come back to us. Thanks to you.”
The reporter ends by saying, “Thanks. Bye.”