Badri Hosseini Khamenei says brother’s ‘despotic caliphate’ has brought nothing but suffering
Sister of Iran’s supreme leader condemns protest crackdown
A sister of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has spoken out against his bloody crackdown on nationwide demonstrations, saying her brother’s “despotic caliphate” has brought nothing but suffering, according to a letter published by her exiled son.
The letter came a day after the country’s former president Mohammad Khatami also issued a rare statement to voice support for the protest movement, adding pressure on the regime from powerful political figures.
In her letter, Badri Hosseini Khamenei, who lives in Iran, called on the country’s feared Revolutionary Guards and “mercenaries” to lay down their weapons as soon as possible and “join the people”. She said she would herself join the rallies were it not for her poor health.
“I think it is appropriate now to declare that I oppose my brother’s actions and I express my sympathy with all mothers mourning the crimes of the Islamic Republic,” she wrote in the note that was shared on the Twitter account of her son, Mahmoud Moradkhani, and dated December 2022.
An image posted on Twitter reportedly showing protesters heading towards a cemetery in Saqez, western Iran, in October after the death of Mahsa Amini.
Badri Hosseini Khamenei comes from a side of the family that has had a fraught relationship with the regime since it took power in a 1979 revolution that overthrew the western-friendly Shah. Her husband, Ali Tehrani, lived for years in exile in Iraq and regularly criticised the Islamic republic in radio broadcasts. On his return in 1995, Tehrani spent 10 years in jail. He died in October this year.
“The crimes of this system, the suppression of any dissenting voice, the imprisonment of the most educated and the most caring youth of this land, the most severe punishments, and the large-scale executions began from the very beginning,” Khamenei said in her letter.
She suggested that she had decided to speak publicly after her daughter, Farideh Moradkhani, who also lives in Tehran, was detained last month. Moradkhani had long-criticised the regime, including in a video message released after her arrest that accused the government of not being “loyal to any of its religious principles”.
“Losing a child and being away from your child is a great sadness for every mother,” Khamenei wrote of her daughter. “Many mothers were bereaved during the last four decades. I think it is appropriate now to declare that I oppose my brother’s actions and I express my sympathy with all mothers mourning the crimes of the Islamic Republic regime, from the time of [the former supreme leader Ruhollah] Khomeini to the current era of the despotic caliphate of Ali Khamenei.
“My concern has always been and will always be the people, especially the women of Iran. I believe that the regime of the Islamic Republic of Khomeini and Ali Khamenei has brought nothing but suffering and oppression to Iran and Iranians.”
She accused her brother of not listening to his people, and instead taking counsel from “his mercenaries and money-grubbers”.
Iran’s clerics are facing their most ferocious challenge yet after the death in September of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, sparked a nationwide uprising.
Amini was arrested for improperly wearing her headscarf and was apparently beaten into a coma by Iran’s “morality police”. In the days after her death, girls and women nationwide abandoned their legally imposed dress code and ripped off their hijabs.
Meanwhile, Tehran has presented the protest movement as a security crisis and has accused “terrorists” of killing dozens of security force members. On Tuesday, authorities sentenced five people to death for allegedly killing a member of a paramilitary force affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, state media reported. Eleven others received prison sentences.
The 13 men and three minors – none of whom have been identified – were charged with killing Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the Basij, a paramilitary volunteer branch of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, according to the report from Irna, a state news agency. According to Amnesty International, Iran executed at least 314 people in 2021.
Iran regularly sentences people on charges related to espionage and has painted the protest movement as a western-backed plot. The UN office of the high commissioner for human rights says more than 300 people have been killed so far in the crackdown, including more than 40 children.
Wednesday marked the final day of a three-day nationwide strike called for by the protesters. In posts circulating on social media, demonstrators asked businesses to shutter their doors.
The rallies have gained widespread backing across Iran, including from celebrities and famous athletes. On Tuesday, Khatami added his voice to the support, describing as “beautiful” the movement’s main slogan – “Woman, life, freedom”.
Khatami, a 79-year-old reformist who served as Iran’s president from 1997 to 2005 but has since been sidelined, said the chant was “a beautiful message that shows movement towards a better future”.
“Freedom and security must not be placed against each other,” he said in a statement quoted by Isna news agency Tuesday, on the eve of Students’ Day.
“Freedom must not be trampled on in order to maintain security” and “security should not be ignored in the name of freedom”, he added.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report
by Oliver Holmes
Source – The Guardian