Iran's most prominent Sunni cleric has reiterated his call for a referendum to determine under which political system Iranians want to live.
Molavi Abdolhamid, the Friday prayer leader of Zahedan, issued the call in his sermon on February 17, as anti-government protesters defied increased security measures to return to the streets of the southeastern restive city.
Large crowds chanted slogans such as "Death to the dictator" and "Khamenei is a murderer,” in reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
🎥 ویدیوهای منتشر شده از #زاهدان حاکی از حضور گسترده معترضانی است که شعارهایی چون «کُرد و بلوچ و آذری، برادری و برابری» و «مرگ بر خامنهای» سر میدهند. ۲۸بهمن— ایران وایر (@iranwire) February 17, 2023
#اعتراضات_سراسری #اعتصابات_سراسری #مهسا_امینی #شهروندخبرنگار pic.twitter.com/jjo4dAyJXV
Molavi has been a key dissenting voice inside the country since the eruption of ongoing nationwide demonstrations triggered by the September death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Tehran’s morality police.
He has repeatedly denounced the deadly crackdown on the women-led protest movement and urged Iran’s Shia clerical leaders to listen to the Iranian people instead of repressing them.
The cleric has called for gender equality and for the rights of all religious and ethnic minorities to be respected. He has said that holding a referendum on protesters' demands, which include ending the current clerical system, would be the best way out of the crisis.
“The opinion of the majority should be respected, and the nation should decide on what kind of system they want,” Molavi said on February 17.
🎥 تجمع حامیان مولوی گرگیج در #گالیکش به دلیل ممانعت از امامت او. ۲۸بهمن— ایران وایر (@iranwire) February 17, 2023
از کانال رصد بلوچستان
#اعتراضات_سراسری #اعتصابات_سراسری #مهسا_امینی pic.twitter.com/Tr7Qg7WuI5
“The ruler should be elected by the people,” the cleric said, adding, “The Islamic Republic system was established in Iran 44 years ago, and only one interpretation and reading of the religion has always been presented.”
The Islamic Republic’s supreme leader has the final say on all important matters of the state. The current leader, 83-year-old Khamenei, was picked in 1989 by a chamber of Shia theologians, the Assembly of Experts, to replace the Islamic Republic’s founding father Ruhollah Khomeini.
Residents of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan, have been holding protest rallies every Friday since September 30, when security forces killed nearly 100 people in the deadliest incident so far in the widespread demonstrations.
The Iranian security forces have killed more than 520 people across the country, including dozens of children, and detained over 19,000 others since the eruption of the protest movement, activists say. Following unlawful detentions and biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters. Four protesters have been executed so far amid international condemnation.
The demonstrations and clampdown on dissent have been particularly intense in the country’s western Kurdish areas and the province of Sistan and Baluchistan, home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people.