New Iranian regional governor slapped in face at inauguration
The new governor of a north-western Iranian province was slapped in the face by an angry man during his inauguration on Saturday in an unusual breach of security in the Islamic Republic.
A motive for the attack in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province remained unclear, though it targeted a new provincial governor who once served in the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and reportedly had been kidnapped at one point by rebel forces in Syria. One report referred to it as a personal dispute.
The new governor, Brig Gen Abedin Khorram, had taken the podium in the provincial capital of Tabriz when the man strode out from offstage and immediately swung at the official. Video aired by state television recorded the gathered crowd gasping in shock and the sound of the slap echoing on the sound system. It took several seconds before plainclothes security forces reached him.
They dragged the man off through a side door, knocking down a curtain. Others rushed in, knocking into each other.
Later footage showed Khorram returning to the stage to speak to the unsettled crowd, now all standing up.
“I do not know him of course but you should know that, although I did not want to say it, when I was in Syria I would get whipped by the enemy 10 times a day and would be beaten up,” he said. “More than 10 times, they would hold a loaded gun to my head. I consider him on a par with those enemies but forgive him.”
Though Khorram said he did not know the man, the state-run IRNA news agency later described the attacker as a member of the Guard’s Ashoura Corps, which Khorram had overseen. IRNA described the attack as due to “personal reasons”, without elaborating.
Later, the semi-official Fars news agency said the man who slapped the governor had been upset that his wife received a coronavirus vaccination from a male nurse, as opposed to a female nurse.
Khorram had been recently nominated by Iran’s hard-line parliament to serve as the provincial governor under the government of Ebrahim Raisi, a protege of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was elected president this year.
Khorram had been among 48 Iranians held hostage in 2013 in Syria, later released for 2,130 rebels, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based thinktank that has long been critical of Iran.
The incident comes amid anger in Iran over the precarious economic situation despite its support abroad for regional militias and others, including the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Iran’s economy has been hammered since Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.