A group of seminary students and teachers in Iran said Friday that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was never fit to be the Guardian of the people and a ruler.

Such a statement issued by a group of clerics is unprecedented. Coinciding with the ongoing nationwide protests during which protesters have chanted against Khamenei and his leadership, makes the statement even more significant although signatories did not reveal their names due to fear of retaliation.

The clerics further stated in the Friday September 30 statement that all those involved in murdering or wounding protestors should be punished based on "an eye for an eye" retribution principle of the Islamic law.

When Khamenei was selected by the Assembly of Experts in 1989 to succeed Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, he was not even an ayatollah, let alone a top ayatollah, inherently a requirement for someone to be the guardian of the flock. But over the years, he has been elevated to the “leadership of Muslims”.

The strongly worded statement charged that none of those in power in Iran and none of those who speak for the government on public stage possess due qualifications for what they do. The statement added that Khamenei is not a Mujtahid [a cleric qualified enough to interpret the Koran and the teachings of the holy prophet] and therefore, he cannot be a source of emulation [a high-ranking cleric who can advise the people on their lifestyle]. The statement added that seminarians have never pronounced him "a learned cleric".

An undated photo showing a group of seminary students and teachers

"Even if he’d held the qualifications for leadership when he was elected by the Assembly of Experts, the many crimes he has committed as well as his despotism and arrogance have effectively deposed him from his post as Supreme Leader." This, the clerics said, make all of his rulings and those made by his appointees illegitimate.

The statement strongly condemned shedding the people's blood and said a government that claims to be "Islamic" should stop shedding blood, adding that this is a major sin and those who commit it should apologize to the nation and be punished. Referring to the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, the statement said those who murdered her should be punished in a proportionate way, adding that the so-called morality police's behavior is not compliant with Islamic standards.

The clerics further charged that officials, commanders and managers of the morality police know nothing about what is prohibited and what is permitted in Islam. On the other hand, those they deal with have not shown a behavior that is prohibited in Islam. "The morality police's behavior, including assault and battery and murder, constitute an insult to Islam."

The statement further charged that Iran's Judiciary Chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei is also not qualified for his job as chief justice and his rulings are against the religion. The statement also criticized Khamenei for appointing ill-qualified clerics as Friday Prayers Imams.

The statement said that Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, the final arbitrator on what is Islamic and what is not, has not written anything significant in his lifetime and lacks the right qualifications for tens of jobs he has been given by Khamenei.

This is the first time individuals from within the country's major seminaries have passed judgement on the qualification of officials appointed by Khamenei. The people and some politicians have previously criticized these officials for being incompetent, but no one on top of the government paid any attention to those criticisms.

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