Smoke rising over Zahedan during protests on September 30, 2022

Iran's Sunni Leader Says Khamenei Responsible For Killings In Zahedan

Sunday, 10/23/2022

The influential leader of Iranian Sunnis among the Baluch has held Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responsible for the September 30 massacre of Sunnis in Zahedan.

The attack by the IRGC left more than 90 unarmed Baluch citizens dead as reported by human rights watchdogs in Iran and abroad. The comments by the Sunni leader came as EU and US officials are reportedly considering sanctions against Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi for violations of human rights.

Sunnis in Iran comprising at least 10 percent of the population have had a rocky relationship with the Shiite clerical regime for four decades. Abdolhamid has often complained of systemic discrimination by the government, to the extent that Sunnis are not permitted to have a proper mosque in the capital Tehran.

In his sermons on Friday, October 21, Mawlana Abdolhamid said: "Beating and killing the people is not the solution to the provinces problems." He further reminded that "No one can evade their responsibility for the massacre of the people of Zahedan," and reiterated that all top Iranian officials, particularly Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who is the commander of the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) are also directly responsible for the massacre.

Responding to the allegations that those who were killed were armed, Mawlana Abdolhamid asked: "If the people in the mosque were armed, how many of you [the security forces] have been killed?" The Sunni leader then reiterated that "The people of Baluchistan have been the victims of discrimination for 43 years," that is since the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought Shiite clerics to power in Iran.

Mawlana Abdolhamid, leader of a large part of Iran's Sunnis

Meanwhile, reminding President Ebrahim Raisi that he and millions of his followers supported him in the 2021 presidential election and helped him rise to power, Abdolhamid told Raisi: "You got the people's vote and even did not try to condole them" after the massacre. Mawlana's remarks were summarized in an October 21 tweet in his Twitter account.

Saying that "plainclothes officers shot unarmed people in the head or heart," Mawlana Abdolhamid characterized the massacre of Sunnis in Zahedan as "a catastrophe and an unprecedent major act of oppression" in his remarks on October 2, a few days after the attack. He also stated that IRGC special force units were placed at the local police station before the attack.

The religious leader said that a group of youngsters threw stones at the police station before the deadly attack started. "In return, the special units shot those youngsters as well as others."

The Belgium-based Iran Human Rights Organization (IHR NGO) condemned the massacre in a strongly worded statement calling the attack a "crime against humanity." At the same time, IRGC-linked Tasnim news agency claimed that five IRGC members were also killed during the attack.

Responding to Mawlana Abdolhamid's sermons on Friday, Majid Mirahmadi, the Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs said on Saturday that "Mawlana Abdolhamid's remarks were provocative."

He added that "after the sermons, some 150 local thugs attacked Sunni people's cars and shops, but the situation was quickly controlled." He said “Mawlana's statements were regrettable because counter-revolutionaries and the enemies of the country's security took advantage of them."

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