Leading Iranian cleric calls it quits

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Ayatollah resigns in protest of Tehran's human-rights violations

Adding to a growing movement of dissent in Iran, a leading cleric has announced his resignation in protest of the Tehran regime's human-rights violations, reports the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI.

Ayatollah Jalal Al-Din Taheri, the Friday preacher of the city of Isfahan, had held his position for over three decades. In his resignation letter, translated by MEMRI, Taheri cited the regime's failure to meet the people's expectations of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the problems of unemployment, poverty, the spread of prostitution, illegal drug use and AIDS.

"For 23 years, the nation has suffered, while many exploited their power for political and financial gain," Taheri wrote. "Is this what we promised the oppressed? ... How much longer will we be able to repeat the same speeches to the public, and organize meetings and conferences. ... How long will neglect, ignorance and [drug] addiction [continue]? Now, when the Shah [Pahlavi] and America no longer rule this country, why do the [rulers] not listen to [our] criticism about the misery, the flaws [in the regime] and the problems we are experiencing? …"

Continued Taheri, "We have failed to solve the state's many problems through boasting, lies, violating human rights, chasing after factional interests and spreading empty slogans. Our main failures are not maintaining the rule of law, the activity of irresponsible non-civilian institutions, the presence of mafia-like groups in the [political] arena, the restrictions placed on the Majlis [parliament] and more."

Referring to the murders of intellectuals and politicians in 1998 and during the 1999 dormitory incident at the University of Tehran – which led to rioting across the country – Taheri accused plainclothes security forces of having direct responsibility for the bloody events.

"The agents caused the disgraceful and ugly events on the university [of Tehran] campus [in 1999]," he charged in his letter. "These agents murdered innocent people in an episode of serial murders. ... What did they achieve besides tarnishing the image of the Islamic [regime] system [and its image] in the international arena?"

Taheri then turned his sights on other Muslim clerics, saying some "want to wed violence to religion, and defile all that is holy. "[These] fascist[s] ... who link ignorance and insanity to the centers of the regime, do whatever they want, throw off all restraints, and go unpunished by the Judiciary and untried by the law. They set religious rulings. … They do what they like and rule as they please. ..."

Taheri's letter sparked political unrest, MEMRI reports. While many reformists supported his statements, the Supreme National Security Council, a few hours after the letter was released, issued a sweeping order banning any discussion of the resignation in the media. This didn't stop the Nourouz daily from reporting the story using a bold headline, however. Another paper was closed by the government for violating the censor order.

Only reformist papers were subject to the order. So-called conservative papers were allowed to discuss the resignation, but those papers took strictly a critical stance toward Taheri's supporters.

As in previous political crises, Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei intervened to defuse the crisis before it undermined the stability of his regime. His intervention, which this time was immediate, addressed two main areas: 1) warning top officials, particularly leading clerics, against criticizing the regime; and 2) incriminating critics of the regime (and by inference Taheri) by associating them with the enemies of the regime, primarily the U.S.

Khamenei rebuked Taheri directly: "All the enemies of the Islamic Revolution, fed by the U.S. and Israel, have benefited [from your announcement of resignation] and are saying that the letter proves [that the public] rejects the doctrine of the Imam [Khomeini]. ..."

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