Source: Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah Rooz Online
Years since the Islamic republic of Iran has been labeled the "regime of the clerics" (hokoomate akhoondi) by its opponents, ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded to the brand at a public gathering.
Having gone to the city of Qom which is recognized as Iran's most important religious city with many most senior grand ayatollah's residing there, in what is widely believed to be an effort to patch up differences with the senior Shite clerics some of whom publicly criticized the manner in which the post 2009 election protests in Iran were handled by the regime and its forces, the leader of the Islamic regime ayatollah Khamenei told a group of religious students, clerics and religious teachers of the Qom Theological Seminary (Hoze Elmie Qom) that calling the regime that he leads a "regime of the clerics" was a lie and slander.
According to ayatollah Khamenei, the "Islamic system is a religious government with religious values and not a regime of clerics."
Regime of clerics (hokoomate Akhoondi) is a term that has been used by some opposition groups since February 1979 when the monarchy was toppled an Islamic republic was proclaimed. The People's Mojahedin Organization (Sazemane Mojahedin Khalq) is one of the groups that used this term for the Islamic republic. The group still calls the leader of the Islamic republic the "regressive religious leader" (vali faghih erteja).
Now, thirty years later and as other groups and individuals too use this term to describe the Islamic Republic, ayatollah Khamenei not only calls this description a lie and libel, but also said, "In the Islamic system, being a cleric is not sufficient to hold government positions."
In his talk, ayatollah Khamenei said it was a "serious mistake" to interpret clerics into "government clerics" and "non-government clerics," and added, "The pursuit for government positions is unacceptable if it is for material and deviant purposes, as is the pursuit of other similar goals. But if a cleric supports the system or accepts government positions for divine and spiritual purposes, then this is the best example of doing good and rejecting evil, and is also a superior example of jihad for God."
The leader of the Islamic Republic called on the public to be weary of digressions through these two terms, i.e., regime of the clerics, and the division of government and non-government clerics. "They want to deny the regime from the great intellectual, scientific and rational support clerics and isolate active and revolutionary clerics and defame them. These drives must be thoughtfully confronted," he said.
Ayatollah Khamenei's sharp rebuttal of the term regime of clerics follows comments by veteran politician and former two-time president and Majlis speaker Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who had said that those who used the term were in fact correct.
On a trip to Mashhad in July 2008, Rafsanjani spoke before a group of religious students and clerics at the Mashhad Theological Seminary and said, "Some say that our regime is a regime of clerics, which is right. It is right because clerics play a major role in the different government agencies. It is true that executive activities are in the hands of others, which is right because they are specialists. But if wrong actions take place today, people will look at clerics and Islam negatively."
Based on this, he labeled actions such as "creating Islamic associations," "the rule of the cleric and the teachings by clerics in universities" to be examples of "the achievements of the system." Rafsanjani, who is viewed as a key theoretician of the revolution and then the Islamic Republic, said the Islamic Republic was a "new" model of state and added, "The subject of the velayat faghih (i.e., rule of clerics) which was taught by ayatollah Khomeini in Najaf was the basis of government which is unprecedented."
Ayatollah Khomeini and the Regime of Clerics
Rafsanjani's reference to velayat faghih which was the basis of the establishment of the Islamic Republic and government of clerics in Iran are issues that ayatollah Khomeini had mentioned in his book Velayat Faghih. In this book which was published in Najaf and also in his lessons, Khomeini talked of government in the hands of clerics and religious scholars. Still, his views were deeply changed on the eve of the 1979 revolution.
In the interviews that gave in those days, he defined "rule" (i.e., velayat) with the role of people and said that clerics would not be ruling, but instead would be monitoring the work of others. He had also said that he had not intention of holding any office in the future regime, and a few months before the fall of the monarchy in Iran had denied in France that he had said that clerics shall be rulers, adding, "their job is something else." Also, he had also said, "neither I nor other clerics will not hold any government positions. The duty of clerics is to enlighten governments. I shall play the role of guide in the future regime."
But soon after the victory of the Islamic revolution and according to the new constitution, the leadership of the Islamic Republic was to be at the hands of a cleric. The constitution gives him wide powers. Furthermore, many important agencies were put under the management of clerics.
Observers believe that the events in the initial years of the revolution which eventually led to the impeachment and removal of Bani Sadr (a non cleric) as the first president of the Islamic Republic, the path was opened for clerics to hold senior public offices. These differences constituted a major point of friction between Bani Sadr and other senior clerics such as Rafsanjani, Hossein Beheshti, Ali Khamenei and others.
Today observers believe that since security and military agencies, topped by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), have taken over the legal and actual organizations of the Islamic Republic, the regime can no longer be called the regime of clerics, even though clerics control many sensitive agencies of the regime and as the leader of the Islamic Republic is a cleric who is accepted as the most powerful post in the regime.
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