Rouhani Criticized For Wife's 'Lavish Ball'

Rouhani slammed by parliament members for 'preaching austerity' while having wife throw Women's Day party in palace on public funds.

Ari Yashar ,

Hassan Rouhani is amused (file)
Hassan Rouhani is amused (file)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came in for criticism from opponents on Tuesday for a "lavish ball" thrown by his wife, Sahebeh Arabi.

The "ball" was held on Sunday on Women's Day, which in Iran is set to the birthday of Mohammed's daughter Fatima. It was held in a palace of the deposed Mohammad Reza Shah in upscale northern Tehran, reports Reuters.

The supposedly lavish festivities were slammed by conservative members of Iran's parliament, at least 11 of whom have signed a petition condemning Rouhani over the party.

"Can one preach austerity and financial sacrifice and yet throw a lavish party on the public coffers?" remarked one of the irked Iranian parliamentarians, noting on the financial situation caused by world sanctions on Iran's nuclear program.

The "lavish ball" was viewed as particularly hypocritical given that Rouhani's government is expected to announce price hikes on Thursday, in a massive cutback of government subsidies for essential goods.

"The party was strictly Islamic"

For his part, Rouhani denied the allegations, saying "it is most shocking and regrettable that even a pure innocent gathering cannot escape an orchestrated chorus of gossip, slander and politically-motivated lies filling the air."

"All Islamic proscriptions were observed in this event ... women turned out in traditional folk dress ... only a few little girls capered and rejoiced," the statement added, in an attempt to play down impressions of a lavish foreign-influenced party.

Speaking on Women's Day, Rouhani made several "moderate" sounding comments, such as “based on the Islamic criteria, we neither consider men as the first sex nor women as the second sex ... they both have the same human dignity and none is superior."

"A mask of smiles"

While Rouhani has been often described as a "moderate" leader in the West, Israeli officials have warned of his "mask of smiles", and that through a "charm offensive" he has effectively isolated Israel during his 10 months in office.

The "true face" of the Iranian regime was revealed in early March according to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after a weapons cargo ship was captured on its way from Iran to Gaza.

Iran has continued to flex its military muscle despite the ongoing nuclear talks with world powers; on Saturday Iranian Navy Commander Habib Allah Siari announced that Ghader-type cruise missiles would be placed on Iran's destroyers.