September 7, 2020
On September 1, Einollah Rezazadeh Juibari, a Shia clergyman and long-time critic of the Islamic Republic, announced that he would be exchanging his turban for a “patriotic” and “freedom-loving” hat.
Over the past three decades this clergyman has been repeatedly arrested and imprisoned on charges including “disseminating lies”. His recent letter to Iran’s religious authorities has been seen by IranWire.
The first time Einollah Rezazadeh Juibari was arrested was in 1990, over his criticism of Velayat-e faqih – or guardianship of the Islamic jurist, the founding principle of the Islamic Republic of Iran – and of the leadership of Ayatollah Khamenei.
It was not to be the last. In 2002 the Shia clergyman was repeatedly arrested, spending between a week and two months in prison each time, for his views. Then in 2006 he sent a 200-page critical letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei while he was away in Syria visiting the shrine of Zeynab bint Ali, the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad and the sister of the third Shia Imam, Imam Hossein. As a consequence he was kidnapped by a group of plainclothes agents and brought back to Iran where, according to information received by IranWire, he spent a year in prison before being pardoned by Khamenei.
In 2017, Juibari was arrested yet again, this time by the agents of the Intelligence Bureau of Mazandaran province. A court sentenced him to eight years in prison and two years of exile, but once again Khamenei intervened and after a year behind bars in Sari, Juibari was exiled to Takab in West Azerbaijan.
Even this did not spell the end of Juibari’s struggles with the security apparatus. In November 2019 Iran was rocked by nationwide protests in and large numbers of civilians were killed by government forces. In Islamic tradition, the 40th night after a death should be marked with mourning. But when 40th night for the victims of the November protests arrived, Intelligence Ministry agents arrested Juibari at 4am in his home. He spent five nights at the intelligence detention center in Urmia and was then taken to prison in the city of Miandoab, where he embarked on a 13-day hunger strike.
Religion as a Pretext for Power Grab
The case against Juibari is still open. A few days ago, the clergyman penned a letter announcing that he had decided going to discard his clerical vestments for good. “These gentlemen have used Shia jurisprudence as a pretext for a power-grab in the name of Velayat-e faqih,” he wrote in the missive, which has been seen by IranWire.
“They have sacrificed the basic tenets of Islam for the survival of their government, claiming that the preservation of the regime takes precedence. They have sacrificed the truth and authority of the Shia faith with their greed. In the name of fighting heresy they have robbed the Muslims of their bread. Not only did the policies of this country not become Islamic, but Islam was smeared with the petty and base objectives of politicians in the garb of clergymen.”
Addressing the Shia clerical elite and religious authorities, Juibari wrote, “People take your silence as complicity. These people have not only dishonored their clerical garments, but they have dishonored religion itself. I not only consider this garb a disgrace for myself but I beg forgiveness for having worn it. I beg the forgiveness of the Iranian people, of the brave young people of this land whose innocent blood was shed, and of the martyrs who have lost their lives for the ideal of liberty for this nation.
“I used to firmly believe that the only way to save the remaining reputation of the Shia clergy was to excise these garments from political activity. Now, my preoccupation is no longer the reputation of the clergy, but the shakiness of religion’s foundations in the minds of the present-day Iranians.”
Juibari’s letter concludes with an announcement. “I shall take off my turban and I shall wear the honorable hat of patriotism and the love of Iran. I bow my head to the will and the demand of the Iranian people for freedom: a freedom which will be realized in a not-too-distant future.”