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The Crying Game Comes To Iran's Election

Sobbing gently, Ali Akbar Velayati views black-and-white slides from his days as foreign minister.
Sobbing gently, Ali Akbar Velayati views black-and-white slides from his days as foreign minister.
Archive footage of the announcement of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's death is rolling. Somber music is playing in the background. And the eyes of a presidential candidate are welling up with tears.

The memory of the 1989 death of the Islamic republic's founder is a painful one for many Iranians, and tears roll freely down candidate Ali Akbar Velayati's cheek as he watches grainy images of people beating their chests and wailing in mourning. Sobbing gently, Velayati views black-and-white slides from his days as foreign minister before he exits slowly under dimmed theater lights.

The production, aired on state television, is a clip from Velayati's official campaign video. The full version, titled "My Iran, Oh Fatherland," is available on the presidential candidate's website.

Iranian politicians often cry.

Yet to this point it was rare for presidential candidates to include weeping in an official campaign video.

Not so for the 2013 election, which will be held June 14. Velayati is not the only presidential candidate who has been seen crying on state television.

Mohammad Reza Aref, who served as vice president under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, also cried during an appearance on state television in which he fielded recorded questions from young Iranians.

Aref appeared to get emotional in reaction to a question about the decreasing age of drug addicts in Iran.

He said that as a father he was ashamed of the situation. He paused to dry his tears. And then the show was stopped briefly -- apparently so Aref could calm down before answering.

Crying can humanize politicians. Or, it can damage them by making them look weak and providing their opponents an excuse to attack them by claiming they are being manipulative.

Supporters defend Aref's tears as a sign of his sincerity and genuine care for Iranians. The same could be said of the weeping Velayati, who was clearly trying to demonstrate his loyalty to Khomeini and also the pain he still feels over his loss.

Critics, however, will dismiss the emotional display as a political crying game -- a tactic aimed at drawing votes from an emotional and passionate nation.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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