Ayatollah Khomeini’s pro-democracy granddaughter: I fear arrest
A granddaughter of Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has attacked the current regime’s “deviation” from the goals of his revolution, criticised leaders for failing to allow democracy to flourish, and said she fears arrest and jail.
By Damien McElroy, and Ahmad Vahdat
Naeimeh Eshraghi, a Tehran-based engineer, has told The Daily Telegraph that she wants to see an opening up of Iranian society with people free to express themselves.
But she also warned the West that the crippling sanctions being imposed on Iran were having the effect of increasing the suffering of the people while having little impact on the leaders.
Mrs Eshraghi is an enthusiastic user of Facebook and has on occasion shared her pro-democracy views and made critical comments about the country’s leadership. She has built up a following of about 5,000 friends on her account, which she can access only by using illegal “filtering busting” technology that circumvents the country’s firewall.
She said she felt it was a duty to resist the increasingly harsh system imposed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, her grandfather’s successor as a Supreme Leader.
“My grandfather’s system of spiritual guidance of the government rested its legitimacy on people’s consent,” she said. “Today this theory of government has split many sections of our society from the regime and has led to a deviation from the earlier right path of the revolution.”
Mrs Eshraghi – a qualified petrochemical engineer who last year supported a campaign against laws requiring women to wear hijabs – objects to the government’s efforts to close off Iran’s internet users from the world.
“It is high time that the governments of Iran resorted to practicing democracy and refrained from confronting individuals and non-government groups. It should stop fearing the transfer of new communications technology,” she said.
“It is only when this happens and we have free and widespread communications and the opening up of our borders to the outside world, both geographically and socially, that we can secure the progress and prosperity of Iran.”
Mrs Eshraghi said that despite her place in Iran’s most prominent revolutionary family – pictures of her as a girl on her grandfather’s lap form the strapline on her Facebook page – she was vulnerable to a crackdown on free speech on the internet.
“Not only am I concerned that the security forces may one day knock on my door, but also in fact think that it is quite possible that this may happen and then I would not be different from many other prominent free thinkers of our country who have ended up being in jail,” she said.
But she added that the regime would face a backlash within the country’s establishment for such a high-profile arrest.
Iran has well advanced plans to cut the entire country off from the world wide web and place all internet activity within a nationwide intranet.
It has also established a force of “cyber-police” that has arrested dozens of internet users. Gen Saeed Shokrian, the force’s commander, was sacked at the start of this month after an investigation into the death of the blogger Sattar Beheshti in Tehran’s Evin prison, where he was being illegally detained. But the policing of online activity has continued.
In one sense, Mrs Eshraghi is continuing a role played by her grandfather in pre-revolutionary Iran.
He challenged the Shah’s rule by having sermons taped in exile in Iraq and smuggled into Iran for underground distribution. The founder of the Islamic republic had five children and the clan maintains a prominent role with control of charitable foundations and filling official advisory positions.
Mrs Eshraghi said that her outspoken views were accepted within the family culture. “We have always kept a balance between belonging to a certain family and having an independent identity of ourselves as well,” she said.