The daughter of one of the founders of the Islamic republic has warned that, while still strong, the system her late father helped establish some 40 years ago is weakened and could someday collapse.
Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said in an interview with a Tehran daily published on December 27 that "intimidation" and "fear" were the main things propping up the Islamic establishment.
"In my view, a breakdown [of principles] has already happened, there hasn't been a physical collapse, but I see that as very likely," Hashemi told the independent Mostaghel newspaper.
Hashemi, 56, a former pro-reform lawmaker who was jailed for six months in 2012 after being convicted of antiregime propaganda, said one doesn't see the open and physical crackdowns on dissent like those seen in the antigovernment protests of 2009, but a lot of repressive measures are taking place behind the scenes.
"In every segment of society, groups of activists are in jail, from workers to teachers, truck drivers, women's rights activists, environmentalists, students..., [those involved in economic activities], and citizens who are either in jail or have been sentenced to jail," she said.
A collapse isn't imminent, she noted, "but there's been a breakdown. Everywhere you look there's inefficiency, there's a lack of leadership and reason, everything is abandoned, there's no attempt to find solutions to the problems or if there is then things only get worse, there are no signs of improvement."
Hashemi has previously come under pressure from hard-line conservatives attempting to smear the legacy of her father, who died in 2017, and also due to her own stances and support for reforms. They denounced her and called for her punishment in 2016 for meeting a leader of the persecuted Baha'i faith with whom she used to share a cell in Tehran's Evin prison.
In March 2017, the hard-line judiciary sentenced her to six months in jail for charges that included "antistate propaganda, spreading lies against the judiciary, and the Revolutionary Guards Corps," the opposition website Kalame reported. She was also briefly detained in the 2009 crackdown.
Hashemi appeared to place much of the blame for the country's current problems on the hard-liners, accusing them of interpreting religion to serve their own interests and "trampling on everything" to remain in power.
But she also criticized President Hassan Rohani, who is in his second term and is seen as a relative moderate.
"The president says things as if he's not the president, he talks in a way as if he were [a member of] the opposition," she said. "I know that the government is not in charge of major issues, there are significant barriers, but there are problems even in those segments under the control of the government."
Hashemi said Iran needed to seriously review and update laws and practices that have gone wrong.
Her comments come amid heightened U.S. pressure on Iran and the reimposition of tough economic sanctions, including penalties targeting the country's oil exports that contributed to a collapse of the national currency earlier this year. The rial has strengthened in recent weeks, but the cost of living remains significantly high.
Protests over economic problems and corruption spread to more than 80 cities and towns last December and in early January. Since then there have been sporadic protests during which protesters have chanted slogans against the establishment.
In a June interview with the Financial Times, Hashemi said that the survival of the Iranian establishment depended on reforms and also negotiations with the United States under President Donald Trump, who has taken a hard line on the Islamic republic.