Photo

The fatal crash of a Porsche has drawn scorn, not sympathy.

Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story




Continue reading the main story
Share This Page

Continue reading the main story


Continue reading the main story


TEHRAN — It was 5 o’clock on a recent morning as the canary yellow Porsche raced up the treelined Shariati boulevard in Tehran. The young woman at the wheel, it later emerged, came from the poorer south side of the city. The young man next to her, the nouveau riche grandson of an ayatollah, had bought the car just two days earlier.


Streetlights flashed past like flickering strobe lights as the Boxster GTS accelerated to 120 miles an hour in just under 10 seconds, the high-pitched roar of its six cylinders reverberating in the empty morning streets.


Continue reading the main story


Related Coverage






Our Man in Tehran - Episode 6: A Narrow EscapeAPRIL 28, 2015








Our Man in Tehran - Episode 5: An Eye for an EyeAPRIL 21, 2015





To that point, the scene could have passed for normal in North Tehran, where increasing numbers of the children of the well-connected live their lives as if the country’s restrictive Islamic laws were written for someone else. Their luxury cars have become symbols of a growing inequality in Iran, where a new class of untouchable 1 percenters hoards money, profiting from sanctions and influential relations, leaving Iran’s middle classes to face the full force of the country’s deepening economic woes.

Photo

Parivash Akbarzadeh, 20, has drawn scorn in Iran after the crash of a luxury car she was driving killed her and the car's rich young owner, Mohammad Hossein Rabbani-Shirazi.


Instead of ending the night parking behind the closing gates of an uptown villa, however, the first-time Porsche driver, Parivash Akbarzadeh, 20, lost control of the car, slamming into the curb and hitting a tree. She was killed instantly, and the car’s owner, Mohammad Hossein Rabbani-Shirazi, 21, died hours later of his injuries, the Afkarnews reported on April 23.


Not long after, pictures appeared on social media of the wreckage of the sports car, lying mangled in one of Tehran’s most prominent streets. Almost as quickly, the identities of the two victims were revealed: A young, big-eyed beauty and a grandson of a prominent cleric, who to make matters worse, was engaged to be wed, but not to Ms. Akbarzadeh.


In Iran, where the state news media eagerly report on the growing inequality — but always omitting personal details about the wealthy — the crash unleashed a storm of comment on social media, the majority of it very nasty.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story


“Good riddance,” someone wrote on Ms. Akbarzadeh’s Instagram page under a picture of her posing with a ring studded with diamonds in the shape of a dollar sign. “This girl set fire on normal people, now she set fire to herself.”


What angered many was not that Ms. Akbarzadeh was in a car with a man about to be wed, though that is illegal under the country’s selectively enforced Islamic laws, which prescribe that unmarried men and women must be segregated.


What rankled most was the cocktail of double standards that the crash symbolized, particularly the intertwined issues of rising corruption and inequality.


During the tenure of the former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a select few, often well-connected, individuals were catapulted into fabulous wealth after having been granted rights to sell oil, dollars and gold. These “middlemen” started venturing into other businesses, often spreading a culture of corruption, economists and government, officials say.


Many of these middlemen continue to sport their three-day revolutionary beards, in a sign of their loyalty to the system. But their children shop in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for designer clothes, and tool around in expensive cars in a country where prices for everyday goods have tripled or more and many can no longer afford a new car, even locally produced.

Continue reading the main story


In contrast, the semiofficial Mashregh news website reported in September that nearly 100,000 luxury cars had been imported since 2009, even though the owners have to pay a tax of 140 percent. So a Porsche like the 2015 Boxster GTS that was wrecked in the crash, selling for about $75,000 in the United States, would cost at least $178,000 in Iran, depending on availability.


Many of the car owners drive around town picking up girls, in a practice locally called “dor, dor,” the Shahrvand newspaper reported on Wednesday.


“The nouveaux riches dress, speak and act differently, in contempt of urban and social rules,” said Nader Karimi Joni, a journalist and activist, explaining the rage provoked by the crash. “They show off their privileged situation and enjoy humiliating others.”


Even Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who promotes a pious and sober life, felt compelled to comment on the uproar. “Some young people, highly proud of their wealth, take over the streets with their expensive cars,” he said this week, addressing a meeting with police officials. This, he said, “creates psychological insecurity in the society” and called for action by the police.


Ayatollah Khamenei also urged the government to step up efforts to deal with nepotism and fraud. “There is no use in speaking about corruption. Shouting, ‘Thief! Thief!’ does not stop the thieves from stealing,” he said in another speech. “Officials are not newspapers to merely speak about corruption. We should take measures and prevent corruption in its true meaning.”


In the past two years, several business tycoons have been arrested, and in 2014, a billionaire named Mahafarid Amir Khosravi was executed after courts found him guilty of embezzlement.


Among the thousands of comments on one of Ms. Akbarzadeh’s pictures on Instagram, people criticized her as an “upstart” and an “opportunist,” stressing her origins in the lower middle-class neighborhood of Jannatabad.


Ashamed of the vile comments against her, others defended Ms. Akbarzadeh, criticizing those making fun of her death.


Some said that “unfortunately” the only way for an attractive young woman in Tehran to get married, very expensive in Iran, is to mingle with the sons of the wealthy.


Mr. Rabbani-Shirazi was mocked for being the grandchild of an important aide to the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but driving a Porsche and, in some of his online pictures, wearing a black cap backward, decorated with silver studs.


His family has denied that the car was his, telling the Haft-e Sobh newspaper that Mr. Rabbani-Shirazi did “not even own a bicycle.” The family reminded people that the young man’s grandfather also died in a car crash, in 1982, though under far different circumstances: The authorities said he was being chased by terrorists, and have labeled him a martyr, an honorific for those who died defending the cause of the revolution.


Nevertheless, for the public, the verdict over the grandson and Ms. Akbarzadeh is clear.

Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story


“Thank God that even when there is no justice in this world in distributing money and wealth, there is justice in death,” one user, Lili.asayesh22, wrote in an Instagram comment on Monday. “I love God’s justice that rich and young people also die along with the desperate poor people who have no hope in life.”


In Amir Abad, a neighborhood where luxury cars are sold at every street corner, often crammed into tiny showrooms, it appeared to be business as usual on Wednesday, even though the police have promised to impound the cars of anyone arrested for excessive speeding.


“Of course when the leader talks against these cars, it will affect our business,” said Habib Razmandan, a former wrestling champion who said he had been selling cars for years. In his showroom stood Porsches, including a vintage one listed at well over $300,000, and high-end Japanese cars.


But not for long.


“The children of those with money will keep on buying these cars because they crave attention of others,” he said, adding that the cars are also considered to be a good investment. “When you are rich here, you like to stick out from the crowds, be special.”






A version of this article appears in print on May 1, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Fatal Car Crash Unleashes Anger at Iran’s Elites. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe


0 comments

More