Scandal Over Torn Khomeini Portrait Fuels Iran's Postelection Fire
Who would dare tear up images of Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini? That's the question being asked in Iran, after state
television broadcast footage showing the tattered remains of a portrait of the
founder of the Islamic Republic that was allegedly defaced during an opposition
protest last week.
Iranian flag with portraits of Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini (left), and his successor, Ali Khamenei, at a Tehran protest in
The images have sparked uproar and deepened
divisions in Iran, where the leader of the Islamic Revolution is held in the
highest esteem across the political spectrum.
Iran's hard-liners are pointing the finger at the opposition Green Movement,
saying that its leaders should be held responsible for the incident, which
reportedly took place during Students Day demonstrations on December 7.
On December 12, government supporters and seminary students denounced the
"insult" in protests across Iran.
One day later, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei blamed opposition leaders and
defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi for
creating the conditions that allowed the insult to happen.
"They [the opposition protesters] chant slogans about following the law, but
they are openly violating the law. They chant slogans in support of the Imam
[the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini], but they are insulting Imam Khomeini,"
He added that as a result of their actions, Iran's "enemies got hope and
insulted the Imam," a reference to Khomeini, who died in 1989.
Members of the opposition counter that the whole portrait incident was staged to
discredit the opposition. They allege that the Iranian establishment is using
the incident as an excuse to clamp down with even greater force against
opposition protesters and leaders who have challenged the results of June
Musavi has branded the incident as "suspicious and antirevolutionary" and said
that he is confident that university students, who have been active in
antigovernment protests, would not commit such an act.
During a protest that took place over the weekend at Ghazvin University,
students suggested that Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his supporters
are behind the alleged incident.
"Those who cheated [in the June 12 vote] tore the picture" chanted dozens of
students, who continued to voice their belief that Ahmadinejad was reelected on
the basis of massive electoral fraud.
Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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