While news this week from Iran has been dominated by hardline challenges to the Rouhani Government, the Supreme Leader may be facing his own problems, including tension over political prisoners and the state of Iran’s economy.
A couple of senior clerics highlighted last week that, almost five years after the disputed 2009 Presidential election, Ayatollah Khamenei has not quite put away the aftermath of the mass protests — even with the continued imprisonment of many of the Green Movement’s leaders.
Ayatollah Yousuf Sanei used a meeting with reformist clerics clergymen — including Seyed Hadi Khamenei, the brother of the Supreme Leader — to criticize Ayatollah Khamenei.
Sanei said those who are behind the 39-month house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard must answer why they have not been given their rights and why they cannot get proper medical attention.
Mousavi was the main challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 election, and Karroubi also stood in the vote. Mousavi’s wife Rahnavard is a leading activist, academic, and artist.
Mousavi was taken to hospital earlier this month for a heart condition. His supporters say he cannot get necessary medical care in his house detention, and his daughters claim he has been beaten by guards. Concerns have also been expressed about the health of Karroubi and Rahnavard.
Sanei indicated that one way to press the Supreme Leader would be through the election of “stronger members” to the Assembly of Experts.
In the same meeting, Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani denounced the imprisonment of the Green Movement’s leaders and other political prisoners, saying “they have done so much for the Islamic Revolution”. He continued, “Mousavi is the symbol of bravery.”
Bayat Zanjani called on President Rouhani to fulfil his campaign promise to free the detainees.
Beyond the attention to the house arrests, the greater challenge to the Supreme Leader is likely to come from discontent over the state of Iran’s economy.
EA sources say that the emergence of public criticism of Khamenei has not been checked, with open discussion of whether his stay in power is good for the Islamic Republic.
One source, expressing surprise at what he found on a recent, lengthy visit, explained:
People bluntly and openly say, “When can we expect to get rid of this guy?
The amazing fact is that this is openly said by people from all classes.