Iran's most prominent Sunni cleric has slammed the way elections are being conducted by the Islamic Republic, saying they have led to the election of "weak managers."
Molavi Abdulhamid, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of the south-eastern city of Zahedan, said on May 12 that the Iranian people want "free and fair elections, not the type that is being advertised by some government media for [next year's] parliamentary elections."
The 76-year-old cleric criticized the Guardian Council, an unelected body that supervises elections, saying it prevents worthy and capable people from being elected to the presidency, parliament or the Assembly of Experts. The council has a history of disqualifying candidates who don’t agree with the the policies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
After Friday prayers, Zahedan residents took to the streets for weekly protests and shouted slogans against the Islamic Republic and Khamenei.
🎥 امروز ۲۲اردیبهشت، معترضان در #زاهدان به خیابان آمده و شعارهایی نظیر «زندانی سیاسی آزاد باید گردد» و «توپ، تانک، فشفشه؛ آخوند باید گم بشه» سر دادند.— ایران وایر (@iranwire) May 12, 2023
#جمعههای_زاهدان #مهسا_امینی #شهروندخبرنگار #اعتراضات_سراسری pic.twitter.com/iBprUvmCfR
Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province, home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people. The city has been rocked by protest rallies every Friday since September 30, when security forces killed nearly 100 people, in the deadliest incident in the widespread demonstrations triggered by the September 2022 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody.
The security forces tried to quell the protest movement sparked by Amini's death with brutal force, killing more than 520 people during demonstrations and unlawfully detaining over 20,000 others, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
In his latest Friday sermon, Molavi, who has been a key dissenting voice inside Iran since the eruption of the protests, urged the authorities to listen to the people's demands for more freedom and better governance.
He said that officials should discuss ways to find solutions to the country's problems with the Islamic Republic's critics, including political prisoners.
He also called for security officers who attack civilians to be held accountable with the same "speed and severity."