During the early 1990s many children of Iran’s political elite emerged as young men of means and influence. They were quickly labeled as the aghazadeh—a term used to refer to individuals with royal families. This phenomenon gave further credence to the popular notion that the elite are the ones that unfairly benefit from the theocratic regime. Issues such as unfair distribution of wealth and cronyism have existed since the early days of the Iranian Revolution, but with today's prominence of social media, these realities are witnessed by the masses in a much more ubiquitous fashion. The rich lives of the elite and their statements about their good fortune are plastered all over the Internet, which creates an enduring echo chamber. A recent example is the comments made by Hamid Reza Aref, the son of former Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref that led to the creation of the popular #goodgenes hashtag that protests nepotism and elitism. The young Aref attributed his business success to his "good genes."
The current government in Iran is certainly sensitive to criticism and aware that it cannot remain silent in the face of public outrage. Rouhani has been a constant supporter of plans to fight government corruption and has made it his public mission to combat any exploitive behaviors. However, Rouhani’s administration, similar to any other government, needs to be pressured, monitored, and held accountable by the public. After the controversial appointment of Rouhani’s son-in-law to the head of Iran’s Geological Survey and the intense public criticism that followed, Kambiz Mehdizadeh stepped down from his position. Mehdizadeh's resignation indicates that despite rampant nepotism, when faced with public scrutiny, the government is still forced to respond.
In my comments to The Washington Post, I indicate that the dire economic conditions in Iran have bred extraordinary resentment toward corruption, nepotism, and the aghazadeh-ha who seem immune to the country’s topsy-turvy realities.