By Ehsan Mehrabi
June 5, 2020
During customary remarks on the anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s death on Wednesday, June 3, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic could barely disguise his glee at the demonstrations unfolding across the United States. These protests have also attracted the attention of other officials of the Islamic Republic.
Unrest in the US sparked by the killing of George Floyd has provided an opportunity for authorities in the Islamic Republic to claim that freedom of assembly is under attack in other countries. In general, they seem to be supporting the protesters and attacking the US government.
This has led to criticism by former MP Faezeh Hashimi, who noted a “dual approach” in the Iranian government’s attitude to the suppression and murder of dissenting citizens. “Those in Iran who condemn [the US police’s] actions are worse than the US government,” she said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Other social media users have highlighted that according to its own official sources, the Islamic Republic killed 230 people in four days during the uprisings last November, while according to Reuters, the figure stood at 1,500. As such, some people claim, the Islamic Republic has no moral authority to comment on what is going on in the US.
Khamenei’s speech was, as usual, redolent with inaccuracies and distortions of the truth on this matter and others. In some cases, he also contradicted his own past proclamations.
The Soviet Union is “The Enemy” and Russia is a Close Ally
In his remarks on 3 June, Ayatollah Khamenei referred to the former Soviet Union as a past “enemy” of Iran. “One part of the front of Iran’s enemies was the Soviet Union, which collapsed, and the other part is the United States, which everyone sees today, is in a mess,” he added.
Khamenei’s position on the collapse of the Soviet Union has varied depending on the political climate in Iran. In the summer of 1989, newly-anointed president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani traveled to the Soviet Union. After the visit, the slogan “Death to the Soviet Union” was removed from the public statements of the Islamic Republic.
Over the decades, Khamenei has made contradictory remarks about the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the early years of his leadership he attributed the collapse of the Soviet Union to the lack of freedom in that country, but from May 1997 onwards he described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a result of American actions.
The leader of the Islamic Republic also said in 2000 that the United States was considering a plan similar to the Soviet collapse for Iran. But the fifth president, Seyyed Mohammed Khatami, was no Gorbachev. Then, under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration, relations between Iran and Russia became so close that those who chanted slogans against Russia during the 2009 protests were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
Despite Soviet support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, official Iranian propaganda has always emphasized the US’s support for Iraq instead. And while the Soviet Union was one of the countries that provided chemical weapons to Iraq, only German companies were ever mentioned in official propaganda.
Although the Leader of the Islamic Republic commented on the US protests only in the final part of his speech, he then kept the focus of his remarks on these events.
“Kneeling on a black man’s neck and pressing him to death,” Khamenei said, “and several other police officers watching the scene, is nothing new. But this is the morale and nature of the US government, which has already done the same to many countries in the world, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and before that, Vietnam.”
The Leader of the Islamic Republic was trying to link the issue of anti-racism protests in the US with the issue of US actions in the international arena and its conflicts with other countries. He also placed Syria alongside Afghanistan and Iraq, significantly because Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of war crimes in Syria, is an ally of the Islamic Republic.
“They Kill People and Go On With Their Impertinence“
“They are killing people and displaying clear and obvious crimes, but they are not apologizing,” the Supreme Leader went on. “At the same time, they go on with their impertinence and talk about human rights! The black man who was killed was apparently not a human being, or did not have any rights. Is that so?”
At least nine people have been killed in several US cities during the recent protests, while according to the Iranian government, 230 protesters were killed in Iran in four days last year. During his tenure, Khamenei has repeatedly decried protesters of all stripes, variously calling them “mercenaries,” “foreign servants,” “germs,” and “thugs”, and also defended the mass execution of Iranian political prisoners in 1988.
The sacked police officer who killed George Floyd has been arrested and charged with murder, and after protracted protests, his three colleagues have also now been charged with aiding and abetting murder. But eight months after Iran’s November protests, not one of the officers involved in the killing of civilians has been arrested.
The Position of Iranians
In another part of his speech, the Leader of the Islamic Republic said: “Today, those Iranians who are in the country or abroad, and whose job is to support and embellish the United States, can no longer hold their heads high.”
Many of the Iranians who oppose the government have rather a different view about the ongoing demonstrations, and many of them support the protesters.
“Shame of the American people”
In a far-reaching attempt to diagnose the feelings of the whole American populace, Khamenei added: “I have said once before, and I say again now: this nation feels ashamed and embarrassed because of its own government. It is right that the American people feel ashamed of the government currently in the United States.”
Khamenei is here referring to Donald Trump. Bizarrely, though, during the US presidential election campaign, contrary to his usual stance Khamenei had claimed Trump was speaking from the hearts of the American people. “His rival said he was talking in a populist way,” he said at the time. “Why populist? Because people saw that what he was saying was true: they saw it in the realities of their own lives.”
Coronavirus in America
In another part of his speech, the Leader of the Islamic Republic took the opportunity for a jab at America’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Due to “poor management”, he said, “because of corruption in the US administration, the number of deaths and illnesses in the United States is several times higher than in other countries.”
Although the number of people killed by coronavirus in the US is higher than some European countries, it cannot be compared to Iran in the same way – because accurate figures on the number COVID-19 deaths is not available, and the real total is many times higher than what has so far been announced.
Khamenei has repeatedly made bizarre remarks about coronavirus and the US. In his Nowruz address, he accused the US government of manufacturing coronavirus itself.
“Change in Basic Demands of the People”
Given that the occasion was commemorating the former Leader of the Islamic Republic, Khamenei did also speak about his predecessor and the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
He noted one of Ayatollah Khomenei’s great achievements was effecting “change in basic demands of the people,” and said that during Khomeini’s struggle the demands of the people had initially been relegated to issues such as street asphalt, but Khomeini changed the scope to address matters such as “independence and freedom.”
Apart from the fact that the catalyst for Ayatollah Khomeini’s protest against the Shah’s rule was the issues raised in the bill of state and provincial associations, including the right of women to vote, that period was a time when a whole range of different ideologies were flourishing.
Even now, 40 years after the revolution, the people’s demands are still focused on basic life necessities and rights-based legislation: needs that still have yet to be met.
The Population is Aging
In his speech on Wednesday, the Leader of the Islamic Republic once again expressed concern over Iran’s supposed aging population. He has previously called for a drive to increase the population.
His remarks come in the wake of the Statistics Center of Iran’s prediction that if the current fertility rate is 1.5 children per woman, population growth will continue until 2046 and Iran’s population will exceed 95 million, about 19 million of which – less than 20 percent – will be 65 or older.
Mohammad Mirzaei, a university professor and former head of the Iranian Demographic Association, has also noted that 1.2 million children are born in Iran each year while the death toll is less than 400,000 a year: indicating that Iran’s population is growing exponentially and not “aging” by any national or international standard.
“Iran’s Leadership in the Scientific Movement”
One of the fabrications that the Leader of the Islamic Republic has clung to many times in his speeches is “Iran’s leadership in the scientific movement.” He has not provided any statistics or case studies for this claim.
The issue has also been examined before and it seems the claim is based on the number of published scientific articles from Iran. But according to one study, “among the 500 prestigious scientific centers in the world, there is no name of Iranian scientific centers.”
The same study ranks Iran’s position in scientific innovation at 60th in the world and further notes, “among the 100 prestigious scientific medical centers in the world, there are no Iranian centers.”
History of “One Thousand Years of Velayat-e Faqih”
The Leader of the Islamic Republic also said on Wednesday: “Of course, the idea of Velayat-e-Faqih (governorship by the most senior Islamic jurisprudence) has existed and been discussed among jurists for a thousand years. But because there was no hope that Velayat-e Faqih would be implemented, there were no detailed discussions about it. Imam Khomeini inscribed this concept into the main body of jurisprudence.”
He also said that Ayatollah Khomeini’s approach to bringing religious issues into politics had been “quite methodical and systematic. That is, according to the Imam, there is no innovation in jurisprudence: it is a correct use of the conventional jurisprudential standards at the disposal of the jurists.”
In the propaganda of the Islamic Republic, many lies have been told about the belief of the past sources of emulation in Velayat-e Faqih. Even the contemporary sources of emulation have gone against Velayat-e Faqih in its current form.
The Iranian dissident philosopher and reformist Mohsen Kadivar has also noted that Khomenei turned to Velayat-e Faqih contrary to the opinion of his teacher, Abdul-Karim Haeri Yazdi, the founder of Qom seminary, and contrary to the views of the great Sheikh Morteza Ansari in his seminal legal treatise the Makasib.
Kadivar writes that Mr. Khomeini did not take the concept of “the absolute authority of the jurist” from his master of jurisprudence, but in fact borrowed it from his master of mysticism, Agha Mohammad Ali Shahabadi.