In two highly critical letters to the current Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, senior dissident cleric and vocal member of the Assembly, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Mohammad Dastgheib, has once more highlighted the Iranian authorities’ illegal conduct following the 2009 presidential as well as the ongoing interference of security and military bodies in civil society and the people’s livelihood.
Ayatollah Dastgheib, a prominent religious scholar and supporter of the opposition Green Movement, is also a member of the Assembley of Experts, the only constitutional body with the authority to appoint and dismiss the leader. Since the rigged 2009 presidential race and its subsequent crackdowns, the Ayatollah has proven to be a thorn in the side of Iran’s ruling elite. His forthrightness and vocal opposition to the violence has made him his home, students, mosque, and seminary the target of regular attacks by pro-government vigilantes who are usually backed up by the security forces.
The two letters, recently made public by opposition website Kaleme, are dated 27 August and 7 September 2011. In both letters, sent before and after the Assembly’s last summit, the senior cleric launches a series of criticisms against Mahdavi Kani, the Assembley’s Chairman, the supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the bodies and organisations that operate under the leader’s direct and indirect control.
The senior cleric’s letter calls for the setting up of a “fact-finding committee” trusted by all sides and charged with “examining the violations of religious law, the constitution and the reasons behind the interference of the Revolutionary Guards and security forces in various social institution and people’s livelihoods.”
The member of the Assembly of Experts representing the people of Fars Province, warned that “if this path continues, if no change occurs in the country’s situation, if prisoners are not released, if the press are not freed and if the constitution is not implemented, the only [rational] conclusion about this [Assembly of] Experts will be that its members lack any will or judgement and that they are forced to approve all these anti-religious [and illegal] acts.”
Ayatollah Dastgheib also indicated that his concern for his safety was the reason why he had chosen not to take part in the Assembly’s meetings.
In his letter, he also reiterated his support the leaders of the Green Movement Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi who have been under an illegal house arrest since mid-February when they called on their supporters to hold demonstrations in support of the Arab Spring. He also criticised their ongoing house arrest saying it was based on “unsubstantiated accusations” and lacked any formal legal proceedings.
Dastgheib slammed the non-stop smear campaign directed against the two men as well as fellow reformist and former president Mohammad Khatami. He also accused the Revolutionary Guard and the intelligence bodies of playing an important role in vilifying former president and former Chairman of the Assembly of Experts Hashemi Rafsanjani.
The letter, which refers to the supreme leader as “article 110,”—a reference to article 110 of the constitution which outlines the duties and powers of the leader—makes note the role of IRGC and Basij, two bodies operating under the leader’s orders, in attacking critical figures such as himself.
“Must I, who have only spoken the truth, in meetings, gatherings, and in statements, be verbally assaulted and [physically] attacked? Is the response to [speaking] the truth attacks on my home in which my wife and children live, and attacks on my seminary, the Ghoba mosque [in Shiraz, managed by Dastgheib’s supporters], and my seminary students, particularly [attacks by] the commanders of Revolutionary Guard and representatives of Article 110? Most strangely, when officials are called upon, and the judiciary is told that the mosque and my home have been attacked, instead of investigating them, the pious people are accused and asked, ‘Why did you defend? Why did you resist?’ [They imply] none of the bodies are able to investigate the incidents, as they were carried out by IRGC and the Basij.”
“Do you consider what’s been imposed on the people in the past two years as being in compliance with the Quran and prophet [Mohammad’s] teachings?” he asked Mahdavi Kani. “History attests to the fact that in the life of the [Assembly of] Experts, very many anti-religious acts have occurred, but the [Assembly of] Experts has not only shown no reaction, but has in fact given its seal of approval instead. And if anyone [dares] express a just, rational and logical argument, all accusations are directed at him.”
In his second letter, Ayatollah Dastgheib made scathing remarks about the exaggerated stance of the country’s leadership Ali Khamenei. “It is astonishing. It is as though preserving Islam has become synonymous with one person, if he is not protected, Islam is seen as being lost; if he exists, Islam exists, even if nothing remains of Islamic doctrines, [even if] the people’s beliefs are weakened, [even if] every person turns indifferent and regresses.”
Responding to recent calls by Mahdavi Kani for the people to rise in defence of the Islamic Republic, the cleric stated, “What establishment are you defending? Which regime must the people defend? You speak of an Islamic state, now look and see if with all these deviations from the Quran and the teachings [of the Prophet], this regime is still ‘Islamic’.”
The Shiite cleric went on to add that “only a shadow” remains of the people’s demands for “Independence, Liberty, Islamic Republic,” during the 1979 Revolution.
“Unfortunately, as a result of what has happened, the people only see a shadow of what they yearned for, what they chanted for, and whose sweet fruits they discovered for a short while. And now, they do not see themselves as a part of that.”
The letter also proposes the “formation of a committee comprised of individuals trusted and chosen by both sides [of the political divide] so as to examine the breaches of law and religious law that has taken place.”
According to this member of the Assembly, the committee would be charged with investigating laws and norms based on which the IRGC and the country’s intelligence apparatus “entered all aspects of the people’s lives, and with what justification the offices, homes, and seminaries [of the dissident clerics] are being watched all the time, and why in addition to the government and the universities, they [the security forces] control mosques and places of religious gatherings?”
“You a person with influence and effect, you cannot claim there’s nothing you can do,” Dastgheib reminded the Chairman of the Assembly of Experts.
He called the 2009 presidential election a “continuation” of the “engineered” 2005 election that saw Ahmadinejad win the office of president. “Do you approve of what’s been taking place following the events of 2009? … Was the 2009 presidential election in accordance with reason and law? Did the people’s will prevail? … Why did they [the authorities] not convince the people and why were they suppressed by the IRGC and other military bodies and why is no one held accountable?”
Dastgheib also touched on the growing discontent among Iran’s leading clergy over the country’s present state of affairs. He mockingly asked, “Do they [senior religious clerics] approve of the current situation? Are they foreigners too? Do they rely on foreign [powers] too? Is Grand Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani [dissident cleric] dependant on foreigners? Are all the other dissident Marjas [senior religious authorities] also reliant on outsiders?”
In the end, the letter states: “I hope that you receive this letter and do your legal and religious duty.”