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Rohani Son-In-Law Resigns New Post After Iranian Outcry

Kambiz Mehdizadeh

The newlywed son-in-law of Iranian President Hassan Rohani has resigned from a senior institutional appointment two days after starting the job amid accusations of nepotism against Rohani's already embattled government.

The lightning appointment and exit of 33-year-old Kambiz Mehdizadeh comes roughly four months after reports said he married one of Rohani's daughters in August.

In his December 17 letter of resignation, Mehdizadeh thanked the minister of Industry and Mines for entrusting him to head the Geological Survey of Iran but asked "to be relieved of my service so that I can continue my scientific and research activities."

His mid-December appointment had sparked questions about Mehdizadeh's experience and qualifications to lead the Geological Survey, a mostly scientific body responsible for exploring and mapping Iran's geology and its resources and cooperating on related topics with its counterparts abroad.

It is a potentially embarrassing blow to Rohani, a longtime establishment figure who has won two terms as a reformist bent on providing jobs and -- more controversially -- reengaging with the West.

Rohani has recently seen a handful of cabinet appointments shot down by hard-liners who dominate virtually all sectors of Iran's government, while a steady trickle of corruption and nepotism scandals has risked feeding Iranians' anger over economic setbacks and a flagging currency.

Iranians have also taken to social media to scrutinize the lifestyles and privileges enjoyed by relatives of state officials.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official has floated the possibility of revoking the visas of relatives of Iranian officials "to pressure the corrupt hypocrites" in the Iranian government "to change their behavior."

Washington also recently reimposed unilateral economic sanctions that had been lifted as part of a 2015 deal to curb Iran's nuclear activities.

State-dominated Iranian media are generally guarded in their coverage of government officials' family members, but Mehdizadeh was said to have married one of Rohani's three daughters in an August ceremony described as "simple."

Several lawmakers criticized his appointment, and a major daily described it as part of a pattern that threatens the country and its Islamic leadership at a difficult time for many Iranians.

"The prevalence of family appointments at a difficult time when the country faces a regiment of unemployed is a threat to the revolution and the Islamic republic," wrote the newspaper, Jomhuri Eslami.

The daily had called on Rohani to fire ministers and managers who commit such "unforgivable mistakes."

Industry, Mines, and Business Minister Reza Rahmani, who only took up his job in late October, had defended the appointment by saying it was unrelated to any family ties and that Mehdizadeh had a "strong resume."

The hard-line Tasnim news agency said Mehdizadeh had also served as an adviser to the governor of Karaj, Iran's oil ministry, the tae kwon do federation, and the national youth organization.

Iranians have also criticized the recent appointment of the son of a powerful hard-line cleric to lead the management department of Iran's Planning and Budget Organization, whose work is supervised by the president.

Cleric Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts, which names and oversees the work of the supreme leader, confirmed reports that his son-in-law Hossein Mirkhalili had been named to the post.

But Khatami, who is a substitute Friday Prayers leader in Tehran, denied in a December 17 statement having influenced the decision or recommending the 37-year-old through "phone calls," "text messages," or any "written" form.

Earlier this year, Iranians launched a social-media campaign to target officials to come clean about potential privileges their children enjoy due to their influence and connections.

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