Iranian Regime Facing "Unprecedented" Street Attacks Against Clerics
A spate of recent attacks in Iran on clerics, seminarians and even state agents are prompting some to self-defense classes, while others are holing up inside.
Iran's mullahs, or the Shia jurists usually seen in flowing robes and turban, may be in charge of Iran, but they're increasingly hesitant to tread its streets.
Their fears follow a recent spate of attacks on regime supporters including a gun killing, possibly related to public anger with the Islamic regime and its violent suppression of mass protests late in 2022 .
On May 1, the judiciary chief Gholam Hussein Mohseni-Ejei urged a swift and firm response, while another cleric, former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, advised those mullahs preaching at Friday congregational prayers to take self-defense classes.
The incidents include the shooting death on April 26 of a senior cleric, Abbas Ali Suleimani, in a bank in the northern city of Babolsar, one of several attempts to run over clerics or seminarians, a Basiji militiaman killed in Sabzevar in north-eastern Iran and a police commander shot dead in Saravan in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan, on April 30. On May 6, another mullah was reported as stabbed and injured in the district of Ahmadabad in the central Markazi province.
A street in the city of Qom, Iran.
London-based broadcaster Iran International observed that Suleimani, a former member of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body, was thought to have been involved in mass prison killings in the late 1980s.
We've never seen days like this in Qom.
One senior theologian, Ayatollah Muhammad Javad Alavi-Borujerdi, said the attacks were "unprecedented," deploring a "gap has opened between the people and ourselves ... We've never seen days like this in Qom, with people trying to run over a seminarian and then getting out of the car to complete their work with knives."
He said that in some towns, clerics hadn't left home for two months now.
Assuming the incidents were not private or simply criminal in nature, they indicate a seething anger and hatred of the regime that has far from subsided since the
suppression of the 2022 protests
. But they are not easily clarified, and the state has little interest in truth-telling.
Iranian Shia cleric Abbas-Ali Soleimani.
Mohammad Houti For
Eye for an eye
Whatever the details, such incidents are always a pretext for a response. The conservative Tehran paper
— an informal mouthpiece of the supreme leader — warned they were part of an organized bid to foment "hatred and fear" around public servants.
Another paper, Vatan-e Emruz , blamed the police officer's death in Saravan on followers of a prominent Sunni cleric of Sistan-Baluchestan, Abdul Hamid Ismailzahi, who has bitterly criticized the regime since the protests of 2022 . His sermons, it observed, were undermining security forces in the province.
A crackdown was already underway in this part of Iran. The authorities were reported on May 4 to have hanged 19 prisoners in the Sistan-Baluchestan province in the previous five days.
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