Khamenei’s final act: Persecuting Iran’s religious minorities (Part 1)
By Hamid Gharagozloo, Op-ed Contributor
The recent disturbing rise of violent acts against religious minorities in Iran — the internal exiles and transfers of Gonabadi Sufis to COVID-19 infested wards of prisons, the burning of a Christian cemetery, setting fire to Mordeci’s shrine and widespread negative propaganda against Jews, arrests and sentencings of Baha’is in different cities, smear campaigns against Sunni Sufis, to name a few — are not random acts committed by a few uncoordinated thugs.
Combined with the recent statements by Khamenei announcing the “Final Solution” and the promise of a free Palestine soon, these acts paint a very disturbing picture and hint at Khamenei’s sinister plans for the survival of his regime and its succession by his son Mojtaba Khamenei (whose inner circle includes individuals such as brothers Hossein and Mehdi Taeb, Fallahian, and many more who are responsible for the bulk of the mass executions of political prisoners and the murders of political dissidents over the past 40 years). In order to achieve this goal, Khamenei needs to accomplish two tasks: (1) establish an ironclad rule where the slightest dissent is dealt with swiftly and violently, and (2) a possible widespread asymmetrical regional war to provide and guarantee the time he and his regime need to obtain an atomic bomb.
The extensive protests prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which were increasing in number and intensity daily, made it clear that Khamenei and his regime not only have no base of support and legitimacy among Iranians of all walks of life anymore, but are doomed to collapse. Realizing the urgency of the situation, he and his cronies, with the advice and full support of Putin and Russian advisors, have been working hard to implement the policies mentioned above. Let us review his recent actions since then.
Over a year ago, Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raissi as the head of the Judiciary. Upon Raissi’s appointment, the rate of arrests, the severity of charges and sentences, and the number of executions increased dramatically. Raissi is one of the key individuals responsible for the mass execution of about 30,000 political prisoners and dissidents about 35 years ago.
Last week, Khamenei appointed Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, an ex-commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and corrupt ultra-hardliner member of his regime, as the head of the Parliament. Ghalibaf, as the then head of the greater Tehran police force, is responsible for the brutal and violent crushing of the university students’ uprising in Tehran over three decades ago.
In his most recent speeches, Khamenei repeatedly stressed the need for a new, young and conservative leadership. This emphasis confirms that in the upcoming Presidential elections less than a year away, Khamenei will have his preferred extremist candidate appointed as President, thereby completing his objective of controlling all three branches of government through his ultra-hardliner murderous brutes, and completing the first step of his goal for a regime similar to that of North Korea, where the slightest dissent is met with violence and even death.
Regarding Khamenei’s other plans internally, the following developments help clarify his intentions further:
A few weeks ago, the Parliament introduced two new laws to be added to Volume 5 of the Penal Code which grant the regime, without any foundation or proof, the authority to brand any group or entity as a sect. Such an accusation is charged as a fifth-degree crime punishable by lashings, confiscation of property, and jail. In certain circumstances, the charge can be elevated to a first-degree crime, which can result in capital punishment. These laws will enable the regime to label any entity or group as a cult, a charge officially punishable by law, and basically oppress or eliminate anyone as they see fit.
The harassment and oppression of Gonabadi Sufis, the largest religious minority group in Iran with an estimated 8-10 million adherents, has also intensified recently. The mistreatment of Gonabadi Sufis in prison continues. The internal exile of the Sufis without any formal charges have escalated. Just this past week, the regime sentenced Mr. Raji’s son to prison for his continued quest for justice for the murder of his father under torture during the brutal attack on the Sufi community two years ago. The regime has also filed several lawsuits against Mr. Salas’s family for punitive damages. Mr. Salas is the bus driver who was framed and falsely accused of driving a bus through security forces, and was hastily hanged despite international appeals.
The arrests and sentencing of Baha’is have increased in the past few weeks all across the country. At the same time, false propaganda against Baha’is in articles branding Baha’ism as “an invention of colonial England to weaken Shiite clerics and act as agents of the British empire” have intensified.
The same pattern of negative propaganda has also been initiated against the Sunni Sufi community of Zahabieh.
Alarmingly, the Christian members of Parliament have repeatedly expressed their support and gratitude for Khamenei and his regime, and have stated that Christians enjoy a comfortable and free life in Iran.
The same is also true of the only Jewish member of Parliament. As the sole government representative of the Jewish community in Iran, Mr. Moreh Sedgh not only has continually expressed his support for Khamenei’s regime, but has gone much further, condemning “the corrupt Zionist” government in Israel and calling for all Jews to rise up against Israel and global Zionism. However, at the same time Khamenei’s regime is actively engaged in spreading harmful propaganda against Jews, accusing them of purchasing the Palestinian lands in the “Occupied Territories,” with the aim of stoking negative sentiments against Jews among ordinary citizens.
These official expressions of support by the Christian and Jewish representatives, despite the Iranian government’s maltreatment of their communities, are reminiscent of statements made by the disguised agents of the regime within the Gonabadi Sufis, who praise the regime for being benevolent, tolerant, and patient with Gonabadi Sufis, while simultaneously criticizing the Sufi community for standing up to the regime’s aggression and oppressive policies through peaceful and civil resistance. The world has already witnessed the end result for Gonabadi Sufis — who have been violently oppressed over the past forty years by the regime without cause or justification — and the same fate is in store for these other religious minorities. When the widespread crackdown of these communities begins, any dissent by members of these minorities will be dealt with severely and will be branded as “acts of agents of world Zionism.”
The reality for the Christian and Jewish communities in Iran is in stark contrast to the statements of their official representatives, who claim these groups enjoy prosperous and safe lives with total freedom. The recent propaganda campaigns discussed above will be the first step for the eventual total eradication of Jews, Christians, Baha’is or any other group in Iran as the regime deems necessary.
Hamid Gharagozloo is a representative of the International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (IOPHR) in Washington, D.C.