Malodour of decay? Islamic Republic at 40

Ordinary Iranians are raising taboo issues, including the war with Iraq in the 1980s, which is also known as “The Sacred Defence.”
Sunday 06/01/2019
Hanging by a thread. A cleric holds a poster showing a portrait of the late founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran.  (AP)
Hanging by a thread. A cleric holds a poster showing a portrait of the late founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. (AP)

Tehran city officials had emergency meetings January 2 after thousands of Iranians took to social media to complain about a “smelly,” “sulphur-like” and “fishy” odour in the capital. Reports of a mysterious odour in Tehran are hardly news; the World Bank said air quality in Tehran places it among the world’s most polluted cities.

But social media commentary offers an interesting political twist: “This smell has been here for 40 years; it’s only just been detected,” a blogger noted referencing the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Remarkably, it is not just bloggers critical of the regime who advance this idea. Those who might be described as the very pillars of support of the Islamic Republic seem to agree. Meanwhile, the public is openly raising issues generally regarded as taboo.

One of those pillars of support of the Islamic Republic is Seyyed Hassan Khomeini. A grandson of the founder of the republic, Khomeini recently elaborated on the “consolidation and collapse” of regimes.

In an address December 31, the 40th anniversary of the revolution, Khomeini warned: “There is no guarantee that we [the Islamic Republic] should survive while other regimes meet their demise.” He added: “Atomisation of society, spreading hatred, hypocrisy, forcing the people to have two faces [one in private and another in the public] and every one of us not being truthful, are all signs of the ill fortunes of regimes.”

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s grandson stressed the importance of providing people with hope for peaceful regime change. He said: “One of the fundamental preconditions of having hope is that the people are capable of changing [the society]. It is a futile effort to prevent and oppose change, which for whatever reasons desired by the society, and may not be to my liking…”

Reading between the lines, Khomeini was clearly warning of the danger of bereaving the public of hope for peaceful reform.

Another pillar of support of the Islamic Republic is the family of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died in January 2017 in mysterious circumstances. As the Western world celebrated the start of 2019, Fatemeh Hashemi spoke about her father’s death.

In a January 1 interview with ROKNA, she said: “In November 2016, two gentlemen who claimed to be war veterans came to my office and said ‘They want to assassinate your father. You let him know.’ I raised the issue at the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC)… I have found evidence that he did not die of natural causes.”

In a separate interview, Yasser Hashemi, son of the late ayatollah, said the SNSC had “reopened the investigation” into his father’s death. Other members of the Rafsanjani family made similar claims before, complaining that authorities prevented an autopsy and shown considerable haste about burying the ayatollah’s body.

The family, once a pillar of support of the Islamic Republic, seems to be increasingly turning its back on the regime with allegations of foul play in the patriarch’s death.

It is not only the elites of the Islamic Republic who are criticising the Islamic Republic. Ordinary Iranians are raising taboo issues, including the war with Iraq in the 1980s, which is also known as “The Sacred Defence.”

There was a time when “The Sacred Defence” could not be questioned but now Iranian Twitter users in the thousands are demanding answers from Major-General Mohsen Rezaei, former chief commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps about his questionable decisions during the war. Rezaei has written a revisionist account of Operation Karbala-4 in December 1986, which cost the lives of thousands of Iranian soldiers.

Perhaps those Twitter users are emboldened by regime elites, who appear to be turning their back on the Islamic Republic. And they may also have smelled the malodour of a decaying regime.

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