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The two daughters of the late president have wide-ranging business interests, based in both inheritance and marriage
The late statesman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was both a founder and a victim of the kleptocratic system at the heart of the Islamic Republic. A shrewd strategist who was at once a man of the people and a ruthless elitist, his presidency, from 1989 to 1997, gave rise to the clannish power networks and corrupt institutions that continue to paralyze Iran’s economy.
The lack of comprehensive public business records from the Rafsanjani era make tracing his family’s role in Iran’s economy difficult, but Rafsanjani was a dedicated diary keeper and one of the few IRI officials to publish annual memoirs until his suspicious death in 2017.
These memoirs, augmented by our research into current business records and whistleblower interviews, offer a wealth of information about the Rafsanjani clan’s relationships with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other top decision makers, family scandals, and pivotal events that took place behind closed doors and were never shared with the nation.
In this series, Tehran Bureau provides an in-depth look at the Rafsanjani family’s business interests. Part one examined the network of Mohsen Hashemi, Rafsanjani’s oldest son. Part two turned to the youngest of Rafsanjani’s three sons, Yaser Hashemi, along with his wife, Maryam Salari, and her family connections. Now, in part three, we focus on the late president’s two daughters, Faezeh and Fatemeh, and the Lahouti clan they both married into.
Faezeh Hashemi Bahramani
Faezeh, 58, is Rafsanjani’s youngest and most controversial daughter. She is married to Hamid Lahouti Eshkevari and has two children, Hassan and Mona. Hassan lived in the UK and was briefly arrested upon his return to Iran in 2012. Mona is married but not much is known about her husband or her life. Faezeh was rumored to have divorced her husband, though she denied this in an interview published by Jamaran News in 2014.
By her account, Faezeh loved to study but was unable to pass the university entrance exam in Iran for several years until she finally gained admittance to Islamic Azad University, which was co-founded by her father in 1982. She holds a doctorate in human rights law from the school.
In 1989, early in her father’s first term as president, the Islamic Federation for Women’s Sports was founded and Faezeh, a sports fan, was appointed as its director. Faezeh held this position until 2009, when the sports federation was closed because of her political activities.
In 1996, former cabinet members and friends of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani founded the Executives of Construction Party (ECP),1 and Faezeh became the head of its women’s branch. The same year she won a seat in the 5th Majles. Two years into her term, Faezeh decided to try her hand at journalism by publishing Zan, a newspaper for women;2 one year later, it was banned for promoting feminism, among other offenses.
When she failed to win reelection, she decided to go abroad to further her education: “I first chose Canada but then changed my mind and went to the UK.” She obtained her master’s degree in human rights law from a university in Birmingham, UK, and lived there for two years “incognito.” She started a PhD program at the university but then transferred her credits to Islamic Azad University.
She now teaches law at the school’s Faculty of Law, which she implies was founded so she would have a teaching position. “We founded the faculty of law on Dr. Jassebi’s3 order, and I teach courses related to my field of study there.”
According to public records, Faezeh Hashemi served as an alternate board member of Daftar Nashr Maaref Enqelab from 2009 to at least 2013—records have not been updated for this institution since that year.
Faezeh’s husband is connected to several companies, including:
- Polyethylene Tak Sirjan4 – founded on April 14, 1991. Hamid Lahouti was on the board of this Kerman-based company as chairman and vice chairman until September 15, 2007, when he was replaced by Abdollah Azimi. Azimi is connected to various other industrial and import-export companies. The company produces plastic bags, polypropylene fibers, and multifilament yarn, according to the business directory website Kompass.
- Sirjan Industrial Foams – Hamid Lahouti was the board chairman of this company, which was established on July 27, 2004. The company makes “all varieties of foam, polypropylene, polyethylene, polystyrene, polyurethane, and parts made from such foams,” in addition to “importing relevant machinery, raw materials, and additives.”
- Sabok Saz Bespar – Hamid Lahouti has been the board chairman of this company since it was established on September 8, 2001. The company produces industrial foam, particularly for use in the auto industry. Members of the Azimi family (see above) are also on the board of this company.
Fatemeh Hashemi Bahramani
Fatemeh, 60, is married to dentist Saeed Lahouti Eshkevari—brother of Faezeh’s husband—and together they have two children, Ali and Sara. She has a degree in political science from Islamic Azad University.
Fatemeh was once stricken by a mysterious illness for which she went to Canada for treatment, according to her father’s memoirs. She also sought treatment in the UK.
She headed the Iranian Women’s Solidarity Association, a position that enabled her to travel around the globe. She used her father’s position as president to secure funds for her various projects and in obtaining things like a Xerox machine and heaters for her office.
Fatemeh founded the Moderation and Development Party in 2001 along with several individuals close to Rafsanjni such as Akbar Torkan, the defense minister in Rafsanjani’s first administration. Hassan Rouhani was the party’s candidate during his successful 2013 and 2016 campaigns for the presidency.
Fatemeh is involved with various health-related foundations and institutions, despite lacking relevant academic credentials:
- Charity Foundation for Special Diseases (CFSD): She founded this bonyad on May 7, 1991, continues to head it, and is one of its trustees alongside Hossein Marashi (chairman of the board of the Quds Force–controlled Mola al-Movahedin Charity). The charity has at least ten treatment centers in various cities across Iran as well as at least two in Iraq.
- Iran Specific Patients and Transplant Sports Federation: She heads this institution, which was founded on June 19, 2016.
- Soudeh Medical and Treatment Center: Fatemeh was formerly the chairman of this CFSD subsidiary’s board of directors. Hossein Marashi (MMC) is its current board chairman. Baqer Larijani, former Majles speaker Ali Larijani’s brother, has been a board member since at least 2015.
- Institute for Research, Education, and Treatment of Cancer (aka Cancer Research, Training, and Prevention Institute): This institute was founded on July 11, 1998. It falls under the CFSD umbrella and is dedicated to cancer research and treatment as well as helping sufferers and their families to cope with a cancer diagnosis. According to its website, the institute is building a hospital that “will be completed within three years”— there is no indication of when that three-year span began or is supposed to end.
Fatemeh Hashemi has been the vice chairman of its board of directors since August 2015. Her uncle Mohammad Hashemi Bahramani, Rafsanjani’s youngest brother, has been its CEO and board chairman since at least 2008. Fatemeh’s cousin Ali Hashemi (Bahramani) is also a former board member.
Fariba Lahouti Eshkevari, a relative of her husband, is also a trustee of this institute. Fariba’s business interests connect her to notable Islamic Republic officials and elites including Masoumeh Ebtekar and her two sons Eisa and Taha Hashemi, Seyyed Mostafa Mohaqeq Ahmadabadi (who is married to Ali Larijani’s sister).
Rafsanjani helped fund this endeavor because Fatemeh suggested it, according to his memoir.
Not much is known about Fatemeh’s husband, Saeed, who has kept a very low profile. But he works at Akhtar Hospital, which was once the American Army hospital and transferred to Bonyad Mostazafan after the Revolution.
Rafsanjani’s Daughters and the Lahouti Clan
Saeed and Hamid Lahouti’s younger brother Vahid was a member of the Mojahedin e-Khalgh (MEK)—arrested in 1981, he died in custody under suspicious circumstances. Their father was cleric Hassan Lahouti Eshkevari, who was close to Khomeini and accompanied him back to Iran from France. He is seen standing behind Khomeini in the famous picture of the Ayatollah disembarking the plane that brought him to Tehran. Hassan Lahouti went on to become a commander of the Islamic Revolution committees and later briefly the first commander of the IRGC. He was also the MP for Rasht in the first Majles following the Islamic Revolution and the first Rasht Friday prayer leader.
In October 1981, Vahid Lahouti was arrested by the pro-Khomeini revolutionaries. Hassan was arrested two days later and died within hours in Evin Prison. In a now archived Shahrvand Emrouz interview5 with Faezeh and Fatemeh Hashemi and Hamid Lahouti, they all deny that Hassan had any involvement with the MEK and state that he died of strychnine poisoning based on the coroner’s official report and not of a heart attack as claimed by IRI media at the time.
Fatemeh Hashemi says that when they learned of Vahid’s arrest her father called Evin Prison warden Asadollah Lajevardi6 to ask what the charge was. Lajevardi assured Rafsanjani that they just needed to ask a few questions and would release him. A few days later, the Lahoutis were informed that Vahid had broken his leg in prison. Rafsanjani once again called Lajevardi and was told that Vahid had thrown himself out of a window and injured himself trying to escape from prison officers.
According to Fatemeh Hashemi, when she informed her father that Lajevardi’s men had gone to her father-in-law Hassan Lahouti’s house to arrest him, Rafsanjani called Lajevardi and told him that his men must leave Lahouti’s house right away. Despite promising to do so, they instead took Lahouti by force. “I called Ahmad Khomeini and told him that Mr. Lahouti had been arrested and taken to Evin Prison, [and to] tell Imam [Khomeini] about this and he did. Imam Khomeini asked them to call Mr. [Hassan] Mousavi Tabrizi [prosecutor general of the Revolutionary Court] to tell him Mr. Lahouti should not be taken to Evin Prison.” Unable to locate Mousavi Tabrizi, Fatemeh says Ahmad Khomeini sent a bike messenger to Evin, but by the time the messenger reached the prison they learned that her father-in-law had expired.
Fatemeh Hashemi and Hamid Lahouti both say they found out from the coroner’s report that Hassan Lahouti died of strychnine poisoning. While then president Rafsanjani looked into the issue “tirelessly,” Fatemeh says her father asked them to “keep silent on the matter for the sake of the Revolution.”
Fatemeh says that a few days after her father-in-law’s death they learned that Vahid had also died—when they contacted Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, they were informed that he had been buried ten days previously. “We were told that Vahid died after throwing himself out of his hospital bed.” Faezeh Hashemi says Vahid died of “blunt force trauma to the head.”
- Hossein Marashi (MMC-Rafsanjani relative) is the speaker of Executives of Construction Party and Mohsen Hashemi, Rafsanjnai’s oldest son, is the head of its central council.
- According to Rafsanjani’s memoir Transfer of Power, 1997–1998, Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani told Rafsanjani he would like to help Faezeh run her newspaper.
- Abdollah Jassebi was the chancellor of Azad University from 1982 to 2012. He co-founded the university along with Rafsanjani, Ali Khamenei, Ahmad Khomeini, and Mir Hossein Mousavi, all of whom were also trustees of the institution.
- Mentioned in Rafsanjani’s memoirs as belonging to Hamid Lahouti.
- Sharvand Emrouz was banned by the Press Court after publishing this interview. Iranian media reports at the time stated that Sharvand Emrouz had been banned for violating article 6 of the Press Law, which covers a wide range of offenses from disclosing state secrets and encouraging acts against national security to slandering Islamic Republic officials and insulting Islam or the supreme leader.
- Lajevardi was a member of the Islamic Coalition Party and responsible for countless executions during the early years of the Islamic Revolution. He was the warden of Evin Prison until 1984, when he was removed from his position. After Khomeini’s death, he once again became head of prisons in 1989, holding this position until February 1998. On August 23, 1998, he was assassinated on his way to his shop in the Tehran Grand Bazaar.
This post is also available in: فارسی (Persian)