Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, architect of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, who tends to avoid the supporters of the reformist camp in Iran, has warned that the political system used in Iran (“guardianship by the Islamic jurist,” known in Farsi as Vilayat e-Faqih) is about to collapse. Khomeini’s words join other statements heard among the religious establishment, according to which there has been considerable erosion of the legitimacy of the Islamic regime as it approaches its fortieth year.
Hassan Khomeini, whose name is mentioned as a possible candidate to follow the Iranian Supreme Leader, stated that there is no guarantee that the Islamic regime will continue to exist if it does not take into account several basic problems that require urgent attention. Khomeini specifically pointed to the issues of tolerance, meritocracy, easing repression, and hypocrisy as matters that the regime must take care of and mend its ways before it is too late. These issues may indicate the collapse of society and the regime.
Khomeini said political leaders in Iran need to be concerned about the day when their political authority is lost and far-reaching changes erode their power and their role. “If you can’t maintain the laws, you will lose the public,” he said. In his words, the satisfaction of the citizens is the foundation upon which society is built, and “anyone who does not adhere to human rights has no guarantee that he can remain in government, and in the end he will lose the confidence of the people.”1
Some of Iran’s newspapers published Hassan Khomeini’s statements under prominent headlines under titles such as, “No Guarantee That We Will Remain.”
Faezeh Hashemi: The Regime Is Collapsing Ideologically, Leading to a Physical Collapse
Khomeini’s grandson is not a lone voice in the desert. Several days before he spoke, Faezeh Hashemi, a former member of the Majlis (parliament) and a daughter of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (former president of Iran, who played various key roles in the Islamic Revolution), asserted in an interview with the Mostaghel newspaper that the ideology of the Islamic Republic has totally collapsed. Even though the regime is still strong, she continued, the only reason why it remains in power is the lack of a suitable alternative that could gain the support of the nation.
“In my opinion,” Hashemi continued, “the principles have already collapsed. We are not yet talking about a physical collapse, but I see (physical collapse) as a definite possibility… It is not close, but the sound of expanding cracks can already be heard… Wherever we look, there is a definite lack of efficiency and a lack of leadership and logic. Everything is neglected, and no attempt has been made to find a solution to the problems. Worst of all – the situation is only getting worse and there is no sign of any improvement.”
“Intimidation” and “Harassment”
Faezeh Hashemi, who was incarcerated for six months after being accused of creating anti-regime propaganda, added that “intimidation” and “harassment” continued to be the source of the main power of the regime and enabled its survival. According to her, even though there are no open signs of repression, examples of them were seen in 2009 after the violent suppression of a protest against the reelection of Ahmadinejad, and many repressive acts are carried out behind the scenes. According to Hashemi, activists from every stratum of society are thrown into prison or sentenced to periods of incarceration. These include workers, teachers, truck drivers, women’s rights workers, environmental activists, students, and anyone else critical of economic policies, including regular citizens.
Hashemi has been targeted in the past for the sharpened arrows shot by senior officials of the conservative camp trying to vilify the actions of her father. They have even attacked her personally for her reformist positions and sharp criticism of the Islamic regime and its “deviation from the path.” Rafsanjani’s daughter has not only criticized the conservatives, but also the “moderate” president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. “He says things as if he is not the president. He speaks as though he is a member of the opposition… I am aware that the government is not responsible for basic issues and there are significant obstacles. But there are problems that the government can solve (and it is not doing it).”2 Rouhani is a reformist who does not behave like a reformist, and he needs to be committed to reform.”3
Not long after Faezeh Hashemi lashed out at the regime, former President Rafsajani’s eldest daughter Fatemeh Hashemi rekindled her doubts about the odd circumstances of their father’s death: “Based on pieces of evidence that I have managed to obtain, I am certain that my father’s death was not from natural causes.” Fatemeh Hashemi reiterated that the regime was behind the murder of her father at the beginning of 2017. She stressed that senior regime officials are aware of the plot, and other commanders and officials were privy to the murder. Two of them even notified her two months before her father was killed and told her to inform him that he would be murdered.4
In January 2018, Fatemeh Hashemi alleged that her father was wrapped in a “towel contaminated with radioactive substances” when he was taken to the hospital after suffering a heart attack, but in a more recent interview to the Jamaran website exactly a year later, she said, “it was only a decoy.”
After his death, Rafsanjani’s family has spoken on several occasions about the suspicious circumstances surrounding his demise. The Iranian regime insists that Rafsanjani died as a result of cardiac arrest.
In a similar vein, Mohammad Reza Tajik, a senior figure in the reformist camp, who headed the Center for Strategic Research during the presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami, stated that the situation of the present regime could be compared to the last moments of The Titanic.
On December 30, 2018, there was a mass gathering sponsored by the regime, entitled the “The Epic of the 9th (of the month of) Dey,” marking the success of the government in suppressing mass riots in 2009 protesting the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These riots were instigated by the leaders of the reformist protest movement, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi. The regime observes this date to demonstrate power and cohesion in the face of growing criticism both at home and abroad and to denounce opponents of the regime for trying to foment fitna (“civil strife” in Farsi). Opponents of the regime are portrayed as traitors and collaborators with the United States and Israel.
“Death to the Dictatorship” in the Heart of Tehran
The day after the Iranian regime glorified itself for its victory nine years ago against the leaders of “the fitna” and the “Israeli and American conspiracy,” citizens and students went out into the streets to demonstrate against the regime, primarily against the backdrop of a bus crash at the Azad University. Reports of riots around the area of Tehran University, the site of student demonstrations in the past and which serves as a focal point for rioting, have flooded social media networks. These riots were a follow up of demonstrations and student protests at Azad University, which occurred when ten students were killed and 25 injured in a bus crash on campus as the result of failures in safety and the neglect of advanced, safe transportation projects.5
During the demonstrations, calls of condemnation against the regime were heard, and just as in earlier protests, security officers dressed in civilian clothing operated among the demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them and put a stop to their actions. In video clips that were circulated, calls were heard of “we aren’t afraid while we are together,” “leave them alone,” “death to the dictatorship,” and other anti-government slogans. Slogans in support of Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah, were also heard.
At the demonstrations, older women were also seen alongside the youth. The BBC’s Farsi language service, which has occasionally been accused by the Iranian regime of biased coverage and is usually very careful when reporting on demonstrations, began its news programs with coverage of the demonstrations.
The deputy governor of Tehran, Abdolazim Rezaie, defined the riots that broke out in the center of Tehran as “unlawful” and accused opportunists of being behind them and inflaming them. He explained that the situation was under control.
Criticism of the Islamic System Grows
According to the “princes” and senior government figures, the regime is facing a real challenge and the demonstrations that have reappeared in the center of Tehran were the result of growing pressure from the United States on Iran and the re-imposition of sanctions on the regime and its officials. This pressure is already showing its signs in the increased hardship of Iranian citizens who go out from time to time to demonstrate in various cities against corruption and the deteriorating economic situation.
During the riots, there were various slogans against the regime and calls to change it, but as Faezeh Hashemi asserted, no leader can be seen on the horizon who would be capable of uniting the Iranian people. Even the efforts of Prince Reza Pahlavi to present himself as a worthy leader have not yet come to fruition and it is not clear whether he can rally mass support for himself from among the Iranian people, some of whom have not yet forgotten the misdeeds of his father.
In any case, the severity of the criticism of the regime and the Islamic system of government is unusual, and it is increasing as the economic crisis in Iran deepens. The criticism from the “princes” – the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini and the daughters of Rafsanjani – indicates that some of the impediments that existed in the past to anything related to criticism of the Islamic system of government have been removed, and the criticism is stronger and more resounding than ever. The question that remains open is what will be the catalyst that will topple the Iranian regime and if there will be a leader that can direct the change in government.6
Will the accident in which ten students at the Islamic Azad University were killed result in a chain reaction bringing the desired change?
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