Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, 48, was one of Iran's leading members of parliament from 1992 to 1996 and the founder and editor of Zan, Iran's first-ever daily women's newspaper. She is also the daughter of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the country's most influential men and strongest opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During the widespread protests that followed Iran's contested presidential election last year, Hashemi was a vocal supporter of the Green Movement and was briefly imprisoned by the Iranian government for her activism. She spoke to Omid Memarian about how Iran has changed since that election and the future of the Green Movement.
Foreign Policy: During the post-election protests last year, you were imprisoned for 24 hours and then released. Many believe that, if you were not the daughter of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, you would still be in prison right now. How has it felt over the past year to see so many of your former colleagues remain in prison?
Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani: I, too, believe that I would not have been released had I not been Mr. Hashemi's daughter. It feels terrible to see individuals who have worked hard for this country for years put in prison without due legal process only for their attempts to stand up to injustice and for telling the truth. Likewise, [it feels terrible] to see those who are real criminals as rulers.
Presently, everything is upside down, wrong is right, the unjust pretend to be unjustly treated, those who aim to destroy the country and the religion call themselves servants of the nation. Imbeciles are at the top, and managers and the distinguished are in prison, or have been dismissed, or have had to flee the country. All of this would be painful for any Iranian who has a modicum of pride.
FP: Recently, Ahmadinejad has expressed interest in meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. Considering his upcoming trip to the United States this month for the inaugural session of the U.N. General Assembly, do you think such a meeting might take place? And if so, how might this affect Iran's domestic politics?
FHR: Ahmadinejad should handle his own problems first. Even if his own fabricated statistics are reviewed, everyone can see that over the 30 years [since] the Iranian revolution, even during the Iran-Iraq War, Iran has never had such a sorry state of affairs. He destroys whatever he touches.
Whether the meeting takes place or not, I don't think anyone is waiting for any positive change in Iran's internal or foreign politics or putting too much hope on it.
FP: How do you think Iranian society has changed since the June 2009 presidential election?
FHR: The exuberance, hope, and excitement of the [post-election period] has given its place to depression and hopelessness. People see themselves face to face with lies, mismanagement, demagoguery, bullying, thuggery, injustice, destruction of national resources and wealth, loss of international opportunities, and further destruction of the country at the hands of the ruling group.
FP: How would you define the Green Movement? What are its boundaries and what should be our expectations of it?
FHR: I think every Iranian who is in search of his or her rights, freedom, democracy, and the country's development belongs to this movement.