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Murder Puts An End To Iranian Politician's Career, Marks People's Distrust Of Official Media

Former Mayor of Tehran (right) Mohammad Ali Najafi with his wife, Mitra Ostad, undated.
Former Mayor of Tehran (right) Mohammad Ali Najafi with his wife, Mitra Ostad, undated.

The story was bizarre, but yet simple and straightforward by all Iranian standards: The former mayor of Tehran killed his second wife, disappeared for about seven hours and finally turned himself in to the police.

This was the simple and straightforward part of the sad story of a well-known Iranian politician, MIT educated Mohamad Ali Najafi, 68, who served briefly as Tehran's mayor in 2018 before resigning for "personal reasons" in less than 6 months. His career included posts such as the Minister of Education and Vice-President in charge of the Planning and Budget Organization.

When he stepped down as mayor of Tehran, it was not quite clear if it was for his "health problems," as he declared to the media or it was under pressure from his political rivals, as the press speculated.

However, it was soon revealed that the reason was none of those. It turned out that Najafi had married a young woman, Mitra Ostad, as his second wife and romantic pictures of the happy couple leaked to social and traditional media, harming Najafi's image and effectively putting an end to his political career. Although polygamy is not illegal for men in Iran as they can have as many as four officially wed wives and as many temporary marriages as they can afford.

After his resignation as mayor Najafi disappeared from the public scene until Tuesday May 28 when the murder took place. Interviews with him at the police station, showed him unshaken. Well-dressed, enjoying tea with the police chief while a state TV reporter was oddly emptying Najafi's gun and counting the bullets and explaining the murder in dramatic detail while Najafi calmly watched. Later videos showed him shaking hands with the police chief and others who were bending before him in full respect. They escorted him out of the office without a handcuff, always wearing his politician's smile.

Overnight, the morning papers released updated versions of the story on the internet with more details that sometimes contradicted initial reporting. For instance, it is now clear that the young woman was not killed in the bedroom as it was earlier said. All reports now agree that she was murdered in the bathroom.

Najafi says that he only wanted to scare his wife, but somehow, he fired five times and two bullets hit the victim, one ripping through her heart. Some reports say he first shot one bullet at the tiled bathroom wall but it ricocheted and hit Najafi's leg. However, there is no sign of such an incident as Najafi walked comfortably and normally past the cameras.

Also it is not clear whether Najafi turned himself in, or he was arrested near the Iranian Bureau of Investigation, downtown Tehran. Different reports give varying accounts of that. Some say Najafi went to Qom to consult with top clerics before turning himself in.

The only political reaction came from another former Mayor of Tehran, and the leader of the political party Najafi belonged to; The Executives of Construction. Gholamhossein Karbaschi said that Najafi should have not been elected mayor in the first place because he was not ready for it.

However, the most interesting part of the story is the way the media behaved. The state TV's news channel gave extensive coverage to the event broadcasting live from the police headquarters. The news agencies and newspapers' coverage was even more extensive. The papers published impressive pictures and came up with headlines than can be as a whole translated as: "We don't know what happened."

The video in this tweet shows Najafi calmly giving a TV interview

This is not how major media in Iran, all controlled by one or another state entity, cover scandals or sensational news. Usually, officials say little, give very limited access to media to investigate and even name individuals in major corruption or murder cases just by the first letters of their names.

Some people on social media expressed disbelief that a suspect could be interviewed on camera before prosecutors made an indictment.

Social media users were highly active with adrenalin-charged posts that pointed fingers at the intelligence agencies accusing them of conspiracy, while also lashing out at the state TV and the press for politically incorrect interviews and lack of fairness. Some social media activists went out of their way to prove in libellous way that there was something suspicious in the story.

As investigations are still going on and the truth is far from clear, the story, once again, showed that the Iranian public do not trust and do not believe official accounts about any story, even a family drama.