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Dispute by Iranian ex-president's allies, 'interrogator journalist' sparks firestorm

FILE - Iran's national flag waves in Tehran, Iran, March 31, 2020.
FILE - Iran's national flag waves in Tehran, Iran, March 31, 2020.

A lawyer closely associated with the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a claim about Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour, an employee of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), known as the "interrogator journalist," igniting a firestorm on social media.

After a helicopter crash claimed the lives of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions on Sunday, Ahmadinejad's decision to wear a white shirt — instead of the mourning color, black — to a meeting of Iran’s Assembly of Experts drew criticism from certain government factions.

Zabihpour, a prominent figure in state media, took to the social media platform X, formerly Twitter. She allegedly shared a photo of Ahmadinejad, expressing disdain at the white shirt, posting, "Having been a reporter for your programs for eight years, I loathe you! worthless."

In reaction to the post, which some users inferred as a commentary on the color of Ahmadinejad’s shirt during Raisi's mourning period, Ali Hosseini, a lawyer affiliated with the former president, hinted at a past incident involving a certain reporter and remarked, "I wish that on that morning at the Warwick Hotel in New York, he hadn't snapped at the guards, dismissing it as irrelevant that a specific reporter had spent the night in a specific photographer's room."

After the lawyer's rebuttal, Zabihpour deleted her post. Subsequently, Hosseini also withdrew his comment from his X account. However, the social media buzz persisted unabated.

While Hosseini refrained from naming any specific photographer in his remarks, news photographer Rouzbeh Jadidoleslam, who often accompanies the government delegation of the Islamic Republic on official trips, reacted to these statements.

Jadidoleslam, who initially shared several messages on X regarding this matter before removing them, labeled Hosseini as a "fraud and charlatan" in one of his posts. Alleging that Hosseini had never accompanied any delegation on trips. Jadidoleslam, accused him of exploiting the situation to gain attention.

Furthermore, he dared the lawyer to "demonstrate his integrity by releasing a photo of his travel visa."

Some social media users have brought up the friendship between Zabihpour and Jadidoleslam. They noted the unorthodox manner — uncommon among those close to the Islamic Republic — where men and women typically do not address each other by their first names. In the past, Jadidoleslam had defended her on X, referring to her as "Ameneh."

These contentious discussions have incited reactions on social media.

Journalist Sasan Aghaei commented, "Those who orchestrated the most despicable insults, indecencies, and schemes against the most dignified, honorable, courageous, and elegant children of Iran, now find themselves in disgrace, branded by their perpetual stain from the Warwick Hotel in New York."

While Abdolreza Davari, a media figure and supporter of Ahmadinejad, posed an unconventional inquiry: "If they had entered into a temporary marriage arrangement before their New York trip and were permissible to each other, what's the issue? Why are some individuals more agitated than those directly involved?"

In reaction to Davari's comments, another user lamented, "There's truly no faith in the memory of Persian Twitter," alluding to Davari's alleged past extramarital affairs.

On the other hand, some citizens have stated that "the relationship between Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour and the photographer in New York is not about her being a woman and her right to private relationships," but rather "about her hypocrisy."

According to these users, Zabihpour is someone who "exploits the plight" of women "struggling to secure their freedom and bodily autonomy."

Sara Omatali, an educational expert, emphasized, "Our repulsion towards Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour and the vile quagmire she and others like her have sunk into shouldn't make me forsake the principles of [the] ‘Women, Life, and Freedom’ movement, which constitutes the most fundamental right of a woman over her body."

She pointed out that "there are countless reasons to disgrace Ameneh Sadat," stressing that there's no necessity to resort to her private associations for her humiliation.

The labeling of Zabihpour as the "interrogator journalist" emerged following testimony from Sepideh Gholian, a civil activist currently detained, who asserted that this state radio and television employee had participated in her interrogation sessions.