London – The “contentious” selfie taken by Tehran parliamentarians with EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini during the swearing in of re-elected President Hassan Rouhani made headlines in Iranian newspapers.
Up to 18 lawmakers lined up, in what the public criticized as an act lacking decorum, to take a snap with Mogherini.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif himself distanced himself from the heated debate taking the Tehran parliament by storm, using tactful diplomacy to dodge questions regarding the issue.
Mogherini traveled to Tehran to participate in Saturday’s inauguration of Rouhani, who was re-elected in May.
Shortly after the ceremony ended, the EU’s top diplomat found herself surrounded by several MPs snapping pictures with their phones.
Many social media users criticized and ridiculed the lawmakers for “humiliating” themselves and their country.
In a similar stance, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi declined to comment on whether Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Hassan Ghashghavi violated diplomatic norms when he joined other lawmakers for the Mogherini selfie. Qassemi dismissed all questions, giving no details as to what he thinks of the topic, which was at the center of heated moral and public debates in Iran.
On the other hand, Iranian parliamentarian Ali Motahari criticized the negative reactions towards the selfie and considered them as unfair. He pointed out that the picture sends a positive and powerful political message since Mogherini backs the Iran nuclear deal.
Mutahari also criticized the “sexualized view” of some critics, who built a cynical argument about “the deputies’ fondness for taking a picture with a European and Italian woman,” reported the Iran-based Kharbanline website.
On the other hand, the Fars news agency posted a photo, which many social media users felt showed Mogherini as unimpressed – and labelled the MPs’ behavior as “strange”.
Images of the lawmakers perched on desks and lining up with their smartphones in front of the Italian diplomat triggered a storm of anger and ridicule on Iranian social media under the hashtag “selfies of humiliation”.
A user on Twitter wrote: “Dear MPs, thank you for disgracing 80 million people.”
The reformist Ghanoon daily published a cartoon of Mogherini in the style of Edvard Munch’s famous painting, “The Scream”, with Iranian parliamentarians peeping from the corners with their mobile phones snapping away. The episode “shows the lack of proper education in the country”, it wrote in its editorial.
But the ultra-conservative Kayhan newspaper did not see the funny side. “Those who are supposed to defend the rights of the nation against the enemy queued up to snap photos in a humiliating way with the violators,” it said.
Ahmad Mazani, one of the MPs in the controversial pictures, tweeted that lawmakers had been banned “from interacting with special guests” during the ceremony – explaining the rush to crowd Mogherini at its conclusion.
But Twitter users remained critical, with one replying that the MPs had “embarrassed the nation”.