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Ayatollah Watch

11 Sep 2009 13:5413 Comments
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This feature will be updated on a rolling basis. Each time we update it, the photo will change to alert the reader.

By BENDIX ANDERSON in New York | 21 July 2009 [updated Sept. 22]

The grand ayatollahs of Iran seem to have united in criticism of the Supreme Leader.

Grand Ayatollahs United (in order by most recent action)

Though an exact list is hard to come by, experts agree that there are only a few dozen Grand Ayatollahs now living. Of those, only about two thirds live in Iran. Shia clerics earn the title of Grand Ayatollah through years of study, publishing papers and books on theological subjects, and gathering thousands or even hundreds of thousands of followers. Literally translated, grand ayatollah, or marja taqlid, means "source of emulation."

On the night of September 19, the Supreme Leader of Iran declared that he had observed the crescent moon, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. However, his proclamation was ignored by a dozen or more of the grand ayatollahs, who together marked the end of Ramadan on the following day. More than simply a public disagreement, the dispute forced millions of Shite Muslims to choose between the ayatollahs and the Supreme Leader for guidance on which day to celebrate the religious new year. The dissenting clerics included grand ayatollahs Bayat Zanjani, Safi Golpaygani, Nouri Hamedani, Vahid Khorasani, Mousavi Ardebili, Montazeri, and Makarem Shirazi and ayatollahs Javadi Amoli and Dastgheib, among others, according to a September 22 story on roozonline.com. Grand ayatollahs in neighboring countries such as ayatollah Sistani in Iraq and ayatollah Ishaq Fayyaz in Afghanistan joined the Iranian clerics by announcing Sunday as the last day of Ramadan.

On September 16, two days before the opposition demonstrations of Quds Day, opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi traveled to the holy city of Qom to meet privately with Grand Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili. The reform leader then went to the home of Grand Ayatollah Saanei where he met with clerics including grand ayatollahs Bayat-Zanjani and Saanei, the representative of Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Iran, and the brother of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, according to Mousavi's Facebook page. The meeting is the latest of several gatherings of Grand Ayatollahs over Ramadan. On September 6 clerics including grand ayatollahs Bayat-Zanjani, Golpayegani, Makarem Shirazi, Montazeri, and Mousavi Ardebili met to discuss "practical steps against the coup government," according to a September 9 story on mowjcamp.com. On September 4 Grand Ayatollah Saanei met with Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

Grand Ayatollahs in Support of Protesters (in order by most recent statement)

Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri: "I find myself responsible before God and subject to His reproach for the spilled blood of our dear martyrs," in a September 14 message on his website, according to a translation from khordaad88.com."Everyone knows that I am a defender of theocratic government and one of the founding fathers of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists, although not in its current form... I intended for the people to choose the jurist and supervise his work... what we see now is the government of a military guardianship, not the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists." Since June, Montazeri has criticized the fraudulent election, the brutal crackdown on protests, the forced confessions of reform leaders, and most recently the Supreme Leader himself in statements like the one above. Montazeri's support for this June's protesters is hardly surprising. Once the hand-picked successor to former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Montazeri lost favor after protesting the executions of political prisoners in the late 1980s and spent years under house arrest in the holy city of Qom after criticizing the current Supreme Leader. The regime has briefly detained his granchildren and a pro-Ahmadinijad website claimed July 13 that Montazeri suffers "severe memory disorders" and asks who has written statements attributed to the Grand Ayatollah. Montazeri responded by posting a photograph of a statement in his own handwriting on his website.

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Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei has been threatened with a lawsuit for his statements against the regime. He invited all Iranians to participate in Quds day, which he calls not just for the oppressed of Jerusalem, but a day for all the world's oppressed people, in a September 15 statement. A "research" story published August 31 by pro-Ahmadinejad Raja News claims to prove he is a megalomaniac. Earlier Saanei said, "Dear clerics, you know Arabic, go read our texts. No one is allowed to torture prisoners," in an August 12 speech at Gorgan, according to a translation supplied by blogger "pedestrian," along with video of the original speech. He has also said: "Confession in prison and detention has not been and is not valid... all persons who have somehow been involved in issuing these confessions are sharing same sin... they will receive the retribution of their perfidious acts in this world and in a fair, righteous court," in a August 6 letter, according to a translation from the website of Mir Hossein Mousavi. He also said, "God maintain unity with you gentlemen, that your victory is unity, the masses will also follow," in a July 27 letter on his website addressed to opposition leaders. Saanei also said: "Everyone in the past days witnessed the attacks... that maimed, murdered, and caged any number of children," according to a translation of a July 3 statement on his website. Saanei had already expressed his "sympathy with the families of the victims of the recent disasters." A confidante of Ayatollah Khomeini, Saanei retired as the head of the Guardian Council in 1988. More recently, he issued a fatwa in which he declared suicide bombing as haram and a 'terrorist act.'

Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani wrote the Supreme Leader a letter criticizing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's choice of a female minister for his cabinet, according to a September 9 story on mowjcamp.com. He earlier called the election results announced by the government "a grand lie," according to a June 30 story in Le Monde. Golpayegani, who was the first Secretary-General of the Guardian Council after the Revolution, met with some members of the Council and reportedly expressed regrets for what had happened.

Grand Ayatollah Nouri Hamedan has expressed regret that he ever congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his announced victory in the June Presidential election, according to a September 9 story on mowjcamp.com. He had been the only grand ayatollah to congratulate Ahmadinejad. He earlier wrote a July 21 letter praising the Supreme Leader.

Grand Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani contrasted the tyranny of the Caliphate, under which Shiites suffered for generations, to the "Imamate" of the Islamic Republic, in which the government must be accountable to the people, according to a September 7 statement on his website. He has emphasized that government gains its legitimacy from the people and should allow the protests of the majority, according to the August 31 story on Parleman News. He also pointed out that the Supreme Leader in overseen by the Assembly of Experts. He also said: "A realm will survive without believing in God, but will not survive with oppression," according to a translation of an August 18 letter in support of opposition leader Medhi Karroubi. He pointed out that the Supreme Leadership is not an absolute power but is subject to the constitution and constitutional bodies such as the Assembly of Experts, according to an August 11 statement. He has defended the character of opposition leader Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and referred to "the warning of God's vengeance" on unjust regimes and the "fate of the Soviet Union" in a July 27 interview with the Iran Labor News Agency. He issued a fatwa July 22, according to a story on the Yoldash News Agency, reiterating that "a fraudulent presidential election does not provide legitimacy." On July 6 he said, "Every healthy mind casts doubt on the way the election was held," according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. Bayat-Zanjani is a former chancellor of Tehran University.

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Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi declared his intention not to congratulate Ahmadinejad on the announced results of the Presidential election, according to an August 9 story on mowjcamp.com. His declaration contradicts reports in Iran's state-supported media. Shirazi also criticized the "aggressive language" used by the state-sponsored media against the protesters and urged the "use of the language of friendship and compassion," according to a July 23 story in state-sponsored PressTV. Earlier he said: "Our Islamic ceremonies and our rules and educations and Iranians do not let us to pollute the unity-making Friday prayers with disunity-making slogans," he said in a July 19 statement on his website in response to protests the day before. Shirazi called for "national conciliation," in a June 25 story on Iran's state-sponsored Press TV, saying that: "Definitively, something must be done to ensure that there are no embers burning under the ashes, and that hostilities, antagonism and rivalries are transformed into amity and cooperation among all parties." Makarem Shirazi was appointed to the first council of Representatives and helped write Iran's constitution, according this website. He is also a member of the Qom Seminary Teachers Society.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Hussein Sistani: Sistani wrote on his website August 9th that any pronouncement of the Supreme Leader "supersedes all (including other Marjaa) unless the pronouncements are proven to be wrong or the pronouncements are proven to be against what is in the Koran or in Religious Tradition," according to a translation by EnduringAmerica.com and coverage in Persian-language press. He also said of the Supreme Leader that "the expert must be acceptable for the public." These statements are in stark contrast to the view that Supreme Leader is an absolute authority. Though Sistani lives in Iraq and rarely comments on political issues, many commentators call him one of the most influential of living Ayatollahs. (A Google search for the Persian words for "Grand Ayatollah" returns Sistani's website as a top hit.)

Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili wrote that the regime should free detainees in a July 28 letter, according to a story on MizanPress and also according to a July 26 statement published on norooznews.org. He also said, "We do not have to pacify the protest by force," in a meeting in late June with the Guardian Council, according to widely-quoted story from the Iranian Labour News Agency. "Let the people decide who is right and who is not." Ardebili was a close and senior aid to Ayatollah Khomeini, and was the head of the Judicial system of Iran until Khomeini,'s death. He also established Mofid University.

Grand Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani refused to confirm or deny in an undated post on his blog rumors that he told Sadeq Larijani that Larijani would "lose his policy," that is to say lose his place in the afterlife, if he became head of the Judiciary. Larijani is the grand ayatollah's son-in-law.

Grand Ayatollahs in Prison

Grand Ayatollah Kazemeyni Boroujerdi opposed the Supreme Leader and the concept of Islamic rule. He was imprisoned October 2006 along with many of his followers. He has since lost most of his vision and nearly 80 pounds, according to iranhumanrights.org.

Grand Ayatollah Yasubedin Rastegari has been imprisoned since April 27, 2004 after criticizing the state's systematic oppression of its citizens and support of militant groups both inside and outside Iran. He's been detained and tortured numerous times since the Islamic Revolution, according to the International Shia Cultural and Human Rights Organization.

Grand Ayatollahs and the Supreme Leader Against the Protesters

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseini Khamenei: His sermon at Friday Prayers September 11 promised a harsh response to confrontation and said: "During these unrests and violence after the elections, people in Islamic countries have been asking their friends in Iran about what has been happening and showing concern. But people here would say, 'The Islamic system is far more powerful to be damaged by this.'" He earlier admitted that "crimes and atrocities" were committed against the protesters, according to a August 30 story on PressTV. "Just as those individuals who openly confront the establishment are legally and justly dealt with, legal and just punishment will also be mete out to the perpetrators of crimes and atrocities." Earlier he took a harder line: "It is a mistake to believe that a limited group of people, in Tehran only -- setting fire to rubbish bins, to public property, to motorbikes, to their cars, to their banks -- are people. These are not people," said the Supreme Leader, according to a July 21 story in the New York Times. "The elites should stay vigilant because they have been put to the test, and failing in this test is not only a simple failure. Rather, it will lead to their downfall," said the Supreme Leader in a July 20 statement on his website. Though former President Khamenei was not an ayatollah before he was chosen as the Supreme Leader, he is now constitutionally the nation's highest religious authority.

Ayatollahs in Support of Protesters (in order by most recent statement)

It takes years of study at one of the recognized Shia seminaries to become an ayatollah. The word translates to "sign of God." There may be more than 1,000 people who have attained the rank of ayatollah.

Rafsanjani_Family

Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani: "Currently experienced and concerned individuals of the establishment are in the process of designing a blueprint providing a solution for the current situation," he said his address to the Assembly of Experts September 22. His address brought up several matters deeply embarrassing to the regime, from the revolt of the grand ayatollahs to libel in state-sponsored media. "Both the officials and the protesters must not expect indifference if they break the law, since lawlessness breeds chaos in society," he said, according to a translation from EnduringAmerica.com. Rafsanjani's address came after weeks of moves that seemed to show his resistance softening to the regime. He attended the Supreme Leader's celebration of the new year, though other opposition leaders stayed away, and on Quds Day he marched alongside pro-government demonstrators. He delayed a meeting of the Assembly of Experts and passed on his turn to lead Friday Prayers in Tehran August 14 to "avoid conflict" acording to a statement on his website. On July 22 he posted section from his memoirs on his Web page. "An individual must not be intimidated by anything in this world... the greatest test a man faces is when because of his love to god he is asked to sacrifice his spouse, his children and his capital. One must be brave," he said, according to a translation from enduringamerica.com. Leading Friday prayers at Tehran University, Rafsanjani called on the government to free detainees and ease restraints on the press. He also recently met with the family of detainees. The former President and the head of Iran Council of Experts, Rafsanjani is widely credited with putting the Supreme Leader in power two decades ago. He also supported Mousavi's run for President.

Ayatollah Sayyed Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi said that the detention of his son will not effect his politic position, according to a September 15 story on roozonline.com. He also said: "Greed for power has robbed the opponents of reform of their power of political analysis," according to a September 1 story on Parleman News. He also praised Rafsanjani's sermon according to a July 18 story on state-sponsored PressTV. He also spoke to the Associated Press saying, "People were peacefully protesting election results and the response to that should not be the bullet... The harsh crackdown was illogical. They could have handled it without any blood being shed," according to a July 8 story. He has also said that, "Having (political) parties in any country is a prelude to establishing and strengthening democracy," according to a June 6 story on Iran's state-sponsored Press TV. He repeats his critique in a June 18 Farsi-language story on parlemannews.com. He has also declared that the Guardian Council was biased and that people have a right to demonstrate in an interview with www.sanyehnews.com, a pro-Ahmadinejad Web site. Tabrizi was chief prosecutor under Ayatollah Khomeini and the leader of the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom.

Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi Amoli has stepped forward to continue the work of the Committee for the Tracking of Prisoners, according to a September 8 story on RadioFarda. At Friday Prayers in Qom, he said that if a person believes that he was oppressed, he must react to the oppression through legal channels, according to a story in the Tehran Times. Kayhan newspaper has cut Ayatollah Amoli's daily column, which has been a part of the newspaper for years, according to a July 5 story on Tabnak. According to a June 22 in the Tehran Times, he said that, "No Muslim would set on fire others' homes and these (the rioters) are surely foreigners. Amoli was the leader of Ayatollah Khomeini's 1988 mission to Russia, according to coverage in the New York Times.

Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastghaib called the Supreme Leader "apostate" in a video now circulating on the internet dated the 10th day of Ramadan, or August 31. He called for a public meeting of the Assembly of Experts "before it is too late" to resolve what he called the "dual nature" of the group, according to a story in mowjcamp.com. He has also said: "Show kindness to people, release the prisoners, ask for forgiveness, by releasing them accept the majority's request," in a July 25 letter to Mousavi in response to a letter supposedly released by his fellow members of the Assembly of Experts. Dastgheib also said, "We saw violence acted on defenseless people, especially upon university students and faculty," in a July 22 letter to Ayatollah Rafsanjani posted on his website. He is a member of the Assembly of Experts. He also reportedly co-wrote the 1984 movie, "Fleeing from Evil to God," with filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. His name had also been spelled as "Dastgheyb."

Ayatollah Mohammad Imami-Kashani: "The Iranian people are kind-hearted and good, it is not right to cause them pain and distress," said Kashani at Friday prayers in Tehran, August 7, according to a story on state-sponsored PressTV. "The government should do everything in its power to be honest and truthful with the public." Kashini has also said that: "The brightness of velayat-e-faqih (supreme leadership) has diminished," according to a translation from www.enduringamerica.com. His statements have gradually turned to favor the protesters. At Friday Prayers in Tehran July 10 he said: "The Parliament should rectify the election code of conduct in whatever way it deems necessary," according to state sponsored Press TV. As leader of Tehran's Friday prayers June 12 he said: "The enemy has focused on the election because it wants to find an excuse to downplay the Iranian nation's participation in the election," according to state-sponsored Press TV. "So a massive turnout in the elections is a response to the enemy and will serve Islam," He is a member of the Assembly of Experts.

Ayatollah Mohaghegh-Damad wrote an open letter criticizing Ayatollah Hashemi-Shahroudi, head of the judiciary, according to an August 4 story on JavanFarda.com, saying "I wish you would have stayed in the Qom Seminary School and continued teaching and research," according to a translation from the website of Mir Hossein Mousavi. Mohaghegh-Damad is a professor of theology, law and philosophy in Qom seminary school.

Ayatollah Hossein Zarandi posted a July 28 letter in support of opposition leader Ayatollah Rafsanjani. Zarandi represents the city of Kermanshah on the Assembly of Experts.

Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani is rumored to have said that propaganda by state media is disallowed by the religion, according to posts on Twitter starting July 20 that also call him a grand ayatollah. Sobhani made less pointed comments in a June meeting with the Guardian Council, asking all of the candidates in the contested election to abide by the law, according to a June 23 story from state-run IRNA. Sobhani is usually a vocal conservative. He has recently issued statements in favor of separation between men and women.

Ayatollah Kharazi is reported to have said the Supreme Leader is responsible for the bloodshed that has followed the contested election, according to a July 19 on mowjcamp.com, a website affiliated with the opposition.

Ayatollah Reza Ostadi issued a sermon July 10 criticizing the Ahmadinejad government and resigning his position as leader of Friday Prayers in the holy city of Qom, according to a story on the website www.mowj.ir. Ostadi is a member of the Assembly of Experts.

Ayatollah Hashemzadeh Harisi: "Distrust of the people is a fact and it must be confessed ," he said, according to a July 9 story on an opposition website. Harisi is a member of the Assembly of Experts.

Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri called the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "illegitimate" and "tyrannical," according to a July 1 story from Radio Free Europe. He also said the regime's actions are sending the Islamic Republic "to a museum." Like Montazeri, Taheri is also a powerful cleric with a history of protest. One of Ayatollah Khomeini's close friends and former Friday prayer leader of the city of Isfahan, he resigned his post in 2002 in protest over government corruption, the house-arrest of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, and the actions of militias he called club-wielding vigilantes. Some coverage has identified him as a grand ayatollah.

Ayatollah Hadi Ghaffari:"Young people are not praying anymore, whose fault is that? It is your fault Mr. Khamenei, it's your fault for placing us in the same line as that lunatic Ahmadinejad," said Ghaffari in video widely distributed on the internet. "Ahmadinejad is nobody, you should congregate with us instead of him." Ghaffari is a hard-liner and a reported former leader of the Iranian Ansar-e Hezbollah.

Ayatollah Haj Shaykh Ebrahimi Amini: "Errors had occurred" during the election, said Amini in a June 12 on KhabarOnline. He called on all four Presidential candidates to "come together and give help and cooperation." Amini is leader of Friday prayers of Qom and a politician in the Assembly of Experts.

Ayatollahs Making Relatively Neutral Statements

Ayatollah Haeri-Shirazi wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader June 24. Some commentators call the letter careful but challenging. The letter mentions Iran's first president Abolhassan Banisadr, who was impeached and exiled because he allegedly moved against the ruling clerics.

Ayatollahs Against the Protesters

Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi linked obedience to the Supreme Leader to obedience to God, according to an August 12 story on parlemannews.com. He wrote July 14 that the Supreme Leader is accountable only to God. He also told a June 22 gathering of Revolutionary Guard commanders that: "Do not be worried about the events and earthquakes that have occurred. Know that God created this world as a test," according to a story in the Associated Press. "The supreme leader holds a great many of the blessings God has given us and at a time of such uncertainties our eyes must turn to him." Mesbah Yazdi is a member of the Assembly of Experts and is believed to be President Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor. Not to be confused with Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, who is a member of the Guardian Council.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in a Friday sermon July 31 in Tehran that opposition politicians had been plotting unrest for four years, according to a story in etemademelli.ir. He has also said of the protests that:"The British Embassy had a presence and some people were arrested," said Jannati of the protests, according to a July 4 story from the BBC. "Well, inevitably they will be put on trial. They have made confessions too." As Secretary-General of the Guardian Council, Jannati helped approve the announced election results June 26.

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Akbar Qoreyshi criticized Ayatollah Rafsanjani for his reaction to the post-vote unrest in an open letter July 25, according to RajaNews. "After the Leader's strong defense [of you] in his Friday Prayers sermon, I told you in a letter that the leader's defense had solved everything and it would be best that you apologize to him and tell the nation that you have nothing to do with your child or children's actions; just as Ayatollah Khazali did. Unfortunately my letter was ignored." Qoreyshi is a member of the Assembly of Experts.

Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami: "We know of some insulting private meetings. We know about the plots against the leader but you (who hold these meetings) should know that you will not be able to stand against the people," Khatami told Friday prayer worshipers, according to a July 24 Reuters story. Khatami is a member of the Assembly of Experts. Khatami earlier said as he led Friday prayers in Tehran said: "I call on the officials of the judicial branch to deal severely and ruthlessly with the leaders of the agitations, whose fodder comes from America and Israel, so that everyone learns a lesson from it," according June 26 story on CBS News. Khatami also said that a protester who engages in "destructive acts" could be considered a mohareb, or someone who wages war against God. Khatami is a member of the Assembly of Experts.

Ayatollah Abolghasem Khazali criticized protesters July 23 and called the election a historic success for its high, 85 percent voter turnout. Ayatollah Khazali's son, Mehdi Khazali, was reportedly detained during the protests and has now been freed on bail.

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Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi: "Anybody resisting against the ruling system will be broken," said Yazdi according to a July 20 story from Associated Press. Mohammad Yazdi is a member of the Guardian Council. He is not to be confused with Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who also holds high office in the regime and issues frequent blunt statements against the protesters.

Ayatollah Morteza Moqtadaei called on the opposition to "choose silence to preserve the system," according to a July 8 story from the Associated Press. He is deputy chairman of the Qom Seminary Teachers Society.

Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi: "Those who co-operate with such websites and television channels will face prosecution," said Shahroudi, according to a July 5 story from the BBC. Shahroudi is the head of Iran's judiciary. In 2002 he placed a moratorium on stoning as a form of capital punishment.

Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani: "The president-elect is the president of the entire Iranian nation," said Kani, according to a June 16 story in the Tehran Times. "The most essential issue for the country, today and every day, is maintaining unity and following the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution." Former Prime Minister Kani is head of the conservative Combatant Clergy Association, not to be confused with the pro-reform Association of Combatant Clerics.

Statements by Clerical and Theocratic Groups

Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom criticized the Revolutionary Guard commander in a September 8 statement. The clerics have also said: "The voice of people seeking justice was marred by violence which unfortunately left several dead and wounded and hundreds arrested," in a July 4 statement. "How can one accept the legitimacy of the election just because the Guardian Council says so? Can one say that the government born out of these infringements is a legitimate one?" The Association is led by reform cleric Ayatollah Tabrizi, who has made many statements in favor of the protesters.

The Association of Combatant Clerics criticized the Revolutionary Guard in a September 5 statement. They earlier called on the new head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, to end the un-Islamic and inhumane treatment of detainees in an August 30 statement. This reformist group also said: "The main objective of the show that was staged in the name of trial was to silence the political activists and protestors objecting the election results, so that with the 'forced confessions' of the oppressed detainees those who are directing this show could be cleared of the allegations of fraud in the election," in a August 3 statement, according to a translation on the Facebook page of Mir Hossein Mousavi. The group called for a referendum on the legitimacy of the government in a statement issued July 20 on their website. The Association should not be confused with the more conservative Combatant Clergy Association. Former President and reformist Mohammad Khatami, who also calls for a national referendum, is the chairman of the Association's central council.

The Assembly of Experts: Contradictory statements abound regarding this body. A meeting of the group has been deferred till after Ramadan. The group's leader, Ayatollah Rafsanjani, supports the protesters. However, a July 23 letter posted on the Assembly's website called objections to the announced election results "myths of the great election fraud, copied from the script of the velvet revolution," according to a translation from state-sponsored PressTV. The letter writers claim to represent a majority of the 86-member Assembly, though many were unable to sign "because of illness or travel." Mir Hossein Mousavi challenged the authenticity of the letter, describing the statement as being "allegedly attributed to the majority of the members of the Assembly of Experts." State media has been premature before in announcing that the Assembly of Experts is backing the regime, as in this June 21 story from the Tehran Times. The Assembly has the constitutional power to oversee or even remove the Supreme Leader if it sees fit -- however, that power has never been tested.

Qom Seminary Teachers Society has congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his reelection as president, according to a July 4 story in the Tehran Times. However, the Teachers Society's endorsement of the announced results has not been reported by Iran's other state-sponsored media outlets that would normally spread the news. The powerful group approves a list of marjas, or grand ayatollahs, in Qom. Its members include Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, who has made statements critical of the election results, in addition to clerics that have spoken in favor of the regime such as Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, and Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.

The Guardian Council of the Constitution approved the announced election results and ruled out further elections on June 26. The Council had earlier pointed out a number of "errors" in the announced election results on June 23. The 12-member Council includes six clerics selected by the Supreme Leader including Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati; Sadegh Larijani, the brother of the politician Ali Larijani; and Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi.

The Expediency Discernment Council: This supervisory body passed a motion banning two members of the Guardian Council from serving simultaneously in both the executive branch of government as a minister and also as a member of the Guardian Council. Both council members are currently members of the cabinet of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Expediency Council is led by Ayatollah and former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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13 Comments

those boxes on the tower are probably satallite jamers not 100% though

michelle / July 21, 2009 11:10 PM

the comparison in the last part (cleric groups) are somehow inaccurate. The Expediency Discernment Council and guardian council are governmental bodies with cleric and non clerics members and can not be considered a clerical group. the other three can be categorized as cleric gruops.

reza / July 21, 2009 11:19 PM

Very thorough and inforamtive. It is very hard to keep track all these Grand Ayatollahs and ayatollahs. Thank you.

Minoo / July 21, 2009 11:46 PM

A great collection of quotes of major political figures in the religious hierarchy.The split is deep and will deepen further with further repression by the regime.This split will not heal!Our nation is on the road to liberation. Let the doubters stand to the side and make room for the real fighters for the liberation of our people from oppression and tyranny. ORGANIZE MOBILIZE EDUCATE.

Ben Khezri / July 22, 2009 12:32 AM

Your two statements regarding the Association of Combatant Clerics and the Combatant Clergy Association are contradictory. See what you wrote about Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani and for The Association of Combatant Clerics.

Boh / July 22, 2009 3:18 AM

Khamenei was promoted to an "Ayatollah" right before his appointment as the new "supreme leader". His religious credentials are considered a joke among high-level clerics...he definitely has never reached the level of a "Grand Ayatollah" although regime's media use that title erroneously in an attempt to give him some religious stature.

khamenei / July 22, 2009 12:23 PM

Khamenei is not a Grand Ayatollah. He was not even an Ayatollah. That's why none of his supporters call him by his name as such. They have generated a new title "maghameh mo-azzameh Rahbary" because if they called him by his low ranking clerics standing, it would be ebarrassing for him. Please make a correction in your list.


Although in my opinion, he is not the supreme leader, he is the supreme dictator with a fate similar to Saddam's awaiting him.

Neda / July 23, 2009 11:51 AM

Ayatollah Jonbonjovi also supported the protest movement.

mitchell porter / July 23, 2009 11:37 PM

You forgot Grand Ayatollah Rastegari who has been jailed for many years for criticizing the government. You also forgot Grand Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani who has spoken against the government for many years and has never accepted the system of Wali Faqih (proposed by Khomeini and Khamenei) and is reported to have said to Sadeq Larijani that if he becomes the head of the Judiciary he will lose his hereafter (i.e., will end up in hell). (See: http://vahid-khorasani.blogfa.com/ also: http://tahlilerooz.ir/detail.php?selnid=19135 and many other sites). Similarly, you forgot Grand Ayatollah Sadeq Rohani who in his book found on his site called Government in Islam (Hokoomat dar Islam) has criticized the founder of the revolution Khomeini and the entire system (see: http://www.rohani.ir/book/HOKOMAT/ ). You have also forgotten to mention Grand Ayatollah Sadeq Shirazi who released an indirect statement against the government's actions and said that An Islamic leader allows people to disagree with him and does not punish them (see: http://www.salaamtv.tv/Fa/EventsComment.aspx?i=32 ). The Shirazi family are famous for their opposition against the Iranian government even under Khomeini and a number of them have been tortured by the Iranian government. All these individuals deserve to be mentioned much more than some of the people you have mentioned and who have been involved in many crimes at the beginning of the revolution but later decided to become reformists! Furthermore, your statement about Grand Ayatollah Sistani is very ambiguous considering the fact that he does not even accept the system of Wali Faqih currently being applied in Iran (both Khomeini's version and Khamenei's version).

The Truth / August 22, 2009 9:29 AM

Thank you for another excellent article; you've done a good job here.

In future posts, can you provide the original Farsi statements?


Also, would it be possible to do an article that gave the political make up of the Council of Experts? I didn't realize so many of them condemned the recent election; this is very noteworthy as they can make of break the Supreme Religious Leader.

vodoqc / September 1, 2009 2:03 PM

Read yesterday the first 19 pages of the 112pages-report "deadly fatwa: Iran's 1988 prison massacre" published by the Iran Human Rights Documention Center (http://iranhrdc.org/httpdocs/English/pdfs/Reports/Deadly 20Fatwa 20- 20Iran 27s 201988 20Prison 20Massacre.pdf). And now many names of the then responsible people surface here - on both sides of the recent political spectrum. Looks to me like most of the establishment is tainted with blood.

Nico / September 11, 2009 2:56 PM

You're right Nico...in iran, it's all about the lesser of 2 evils, not good vs. bad.

DC Iranian / September 16, 2009 9:20 PM

Can we expect an update soon, the last one was in Sept 2009?

John / May 16, 2010 1:16 PM