PHOTO: Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani casts his vote in Parliamentary elections in 2012


Iran’s hardliners have hit back at former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, following his criticism of the disqualification of thousands of candidates for elections on February 26.

On Monday, Rafsanjani challenged the Guardian Council, the 12-member body appointed by the Supreme Leader and the judiciary, for banning 60% of candidates for Parliament and 80% of hopefuls for the Assembly of Experts. He asked, “Where did you get your qualifications? Who allowed you to judge?”, and said it was essential that the Iranian people did not have to cast a “forced vote” on February 26.

See Iran Daily, Feb 2: Rafsanjani Attacks Guardian Council Over Election Bans

Yesterday MP Hamid Rasaei said Rafsanjani was “deviant” and corrupt”. The newspaper Vatan-e Emrooz called on the Guardian Council to disqualify Rafsanjani from the Assembly of Experts vote because he “officially questioned the structure of the Islamic Republic”.

Rafsanjani is hoping to regain the chair of the 88-member Assembly, which chooses the Supreme Leader. He was blocked by the Council from running for President in 2013, only for his ally Hassan Rouhani — approved as a “consolation” candidate — to win a surprise victory.

Meanwhile, the Rouhani Government tried to put some pressure on the Council, with a statement from Interior Minister Abdolreza Fazli challenging the extent of the bans.

Discussing the Interior Ministry’s talks with the Council on the vetting process, Fazli declared that “nearly 10,000 candidates” — of more than 12,000 who registered for the Parliamentary elections — are eligible.

The Council has approved less than 6,000 candidates to run. Fazli asserted that the Council had promised to “assist and cooperate” with the Interior Ministry in reviewing complaints from disqualified candidates.

President Rouhani also implied on Tuesday that there should be compromise, “Concerns that the elections have been engineered should not occur within the minds of the people….We must strive to have open and competitive elections.”

(h/t to Iran Tracker for translations)

Former BBC Journalist Daroshafaei Arrested

Journalist Bahman Daroshafaei was arrested in Tehran on Wednesday morning in a raid on his home.

Interrogated 40 times over the past few months, Daroshafaei had been working as a translator for a publishing Company and for an NGO focusing on vulnerable children and women.

He is the latest journalist to be seized in a crackdown, led by the Revolutionary Guards, with detentions of reporters, artists, and activists since last autumn.

Iran Denies Sending Afghans to Fight in Syria

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has denied reports that Tehran has been sending Afghan emigrants to fight in Syria.

Human Rights Watch last week confirmed long-standing reports that Iranian officials have been organizing Afghan militias to fight in Iranian-commanded units along the Assad regime’s forces. The men were offered money and residency rights if they fought; some said they were coerced with threats against them and their families.

See Iran Feature: Tehran is Sending 1000s of Afghans to Fight in Syria

The Foreign Ministry said the reports — based on testimony, videos, and photographs — are “fabricated” and “propagandistic”. It claimed Afghan nationals are fighting both for and against the Assad regime:

No one can speak with certainty about the circumstances of their presence on both sides of the Syrian front because the Daesh [Islamist State] terrorist group and other terrorist groups have recruited forces from different countries including Afghanistan in support of their allies in Syria and Iraq.