The representative of Iran's supreme leader at Keyhan publishing house and the editor of widely-circulated Keyhan daily Hossein Shariatmadari accused those senior ayatollahs who recently met with families of political prisoners of "supporters of seditionists," and helping the enemies. Seditionists are the term that the Iranian regime uses for the leaders of the Green movement and protestors following the rejected announcement of the 2009 presidential election.
In his editorial last Wednesday (December 22, 2010) in Keyhan, Shariatmadari raised this question: Why do some senior clerics, intentionally or not, help the enemies of Islam?" He of course raised this question only after writing that the senior clerics that met the family members of political prisoners were "neither sources of emulation nor to be respected." According to Keyhan, "there is a different expectation from senior clerics" as interpreted by Shariatmadari who wrote, "a look at the news concerning these visits, which have been organized by one specific center, show that during the meetings with the clerics nothing is mentioned about the horrific crimes committed by the prisoners but instead the prisoners are portrayed as victims through a pre-defined plan that is using a second ladder to attain its goals.
The editorial by ayatollah Khamenei's representative at Keyhan titled "Moving up the Second Ladder" expressly says that this is "A Warning" to senior clerics. He further notes that this is only a friendly warning coming from the heart and is "supported by clear documents and evidence," and so must be viewed as a "service," meaning Shariatmadari is in fact doing the senior clerics a favor.
Brother Hossein did not Go to School
Kalameh, the official website of presidential contender, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi and leader of Iran's Green movement responded to Shariatmadari's editorial and the comments that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's chief of staff Rahim Mashai made about music by writing, "The disobedience of the apex of power has gone so far that Mr. Shariatmadari implicitly asks senior clerics to close their doors to the public and limit their connections with them, out of fear that senior clerics may disrupt the dreams of the apex of power." Kalameh writes that the editor of Keyhan is "intoxicated with power," and notes that as someone who has not studied or gone to school he should not set their agenda and assign duties for senior clerics just because he fears them and their open-door policies have made him angry.
Some of Iran's senior ayatollahs
Kalameh further writes that the door of the house of senior clerics "cannot be shut by interrogator," a reference to what interrogators do with detainees, adding, "if Hossein has been overtaken with his illusions of a sedition, then he too should stoop down and humbly go through the door of the very same senior clerics and ask for forgiveness and guidance." The website had reported on the visit that prisoner Mohammad Nourizadeh's family members' and other political prisoner families had made to the city of Qom to meet the senior ayatollahs of the city, and that some of the clerics had expressed their concern about the condition of political prisoners and had even promised to undertake steps to improve the conditions.
According to the news report published by Kalameh, ayatollah Vahid Khorasani, ayatollah Gerami, ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili, ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, ayatollah Safi Golpayagani, ayatollah Javadi Amoli and ayatollah Bayat Zanjani were among the senior clerics who had met with family members of political prisoners at the time and received their written complaints. Some of these clerics are the symbols of the traditional clergy in the Qom Theological Seminary (i.e., ayatollah Vahid Khorasani and ayatollah Safi Golpaygani) and some others such as ayatollah Sanei and ayatollah Bayat Zanjani who have more progressive views and who feel affinity with Iran's reformers and those opposing the administration.
Opposition to Ahmadinejad
But what is common among all of these clerics is that none of them sent congratulatory messages to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was announced to be the winner of the 2009 presidential election, an event that is considered unprecedented in the history of the Islamic republic.
Those elections and their announcement brought forth massive protests across Iran and were followed by the announcement by Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi - the two presidential hopefuls - that the government of Iran had committed wide electoral fraud, violently cracked down on the protestors and perpetrated a coup d'etat against the will of the people.
Keyhan's Criticism of Clerics
Keyhan newspaper had criticized senior Shiite clerics whose views different from those of supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei in the past as well. Senior clerics such as ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, ayatollah Yousef Sanei, ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib, ayatollah Bayat Zanjani, ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili, among others, are senior Shiite clerics who have been in disrepute by Keyhan and who have been under verbal attack by it. But what is noteworthy is that even some clerics who belong to the traditional school, such as ayatollah Sistani (a popular Iranian Shiite senior cleric residing in Iraq's Najaf Theological Center who is said to have some 50 million followers, considered the largest for any single Shiite ayatollah), former ayatollah Fazel Lankarani and even ayatollah Vahid Khorasani too have been repeatedly verbally attacked by Keyhan. Iranian laws consider any insult to a senior cleric to be a punishable offense, but Keyhan which its opponents label to have immunity from such prosecution, and no prosecution of it has ever taken place.
Among clerics who has in recent weeks been under verbal attack by supporters of the administration is ayatollah Vahid Khorasani. This criticism heightened when the cleric complained about an image of Saint Abbas was aired on Iranian government television channel, causing ripples in the powerful and influential Qom Theological Center.
During the last visit that supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei made to Qom two months ago, many senior ayatollahs there refrained from meeting with him and there were numerous reports in the opposition media of pressure being applied by intelligence agencies on the clerics to meet with ayatollah Khamenei.
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