London – Iranian lawmakers came under fire after a number of members of the Parliament rushed to take photos with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
Mogherini visited Tehran on Saturday for the country’s presidential inauguration of President Hasan Rouhani’s second term.
Shortly after the ceremony ended, the top diplomat was surrounded by several MPs snapping pictures with their phones.
Social media users expressed their surprise for the situation after the pictures circulated online showing the politicians around Mogherini as Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary, and Expatriates’ Affairs Hasan Qashqavi was trying to take a group photo.
Twitter users remained critical, with one replying that the MPs had “embarrassed the nation”.
Tasnim News Agency was the first to post the pictures, prompting social media ridicule and many users labeled their actions as “humiliating”. Social media users took the opportunity to shed light on the issues women suffer from in Iran.
Fars semi-official news agency, considered close to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), described the MPs’ behavior as “strange” and used the “selfie of shame” hashtag.
MP Alireza Salimi called the behavior “self-surrender to the West” and told Mehr News Agency that a committee on the conduct of members may probe the incident, especially if other MPs complain that the selfies caused “contempt” for Parliament.
This isn’t the first time that a picture of the Iranian parliament stirs controversy. In 2012, media outlets posted images of members of parliament sleeping during a session. The incident led to a vote on limiting the access of photojournalists, which didn’t receive enough votes to pass it.
Before heading to Iran, Mogherini received criticism from several human rights groups as Amnesty International called upon the EU to address the human rights’ violations in the country.
Some tried to use the presence of Reformist lawmakers around the EU official to attack the Reformist movement, while others considered that Mogherini’s political status was the reason behind the MPs’ interest.
Several political figures and artists commented on the matter, while Rouhani’s cultural adviser Hesam Ashena said that this is a cultural matter and not a political one, adding that: “every one of those esteemed MPs in that selfie should be interviewed seriously.”
An advisor to Iran’s former president, Sadegh Kharraz, said parliament members should attend “a training course on codes of conduct and universal moral values,” the BBC reported.
The incident also became an occasion for online users to generate funny photos and joke with several cartoonists drawing Mogherini and the lawmakers.
Twitter users compared pictures of the incident alongside that of Monica Belluci in the film Malena, in which the actress is surrounded by men offering to light her cigarette.
Iran’s reformist MP representing Shiraz Farajollah Rajabi apologized for the selfie which was an “inappropriate behavior of the representative of the people”, adding that it was done informally.
A Twitter user said that Mogherini will write in her memoir that she went to a country and didn’t see any female member of its parliament.