Molavi Abdolhamid, religious leader of Sunni Baluch in Iran

Prominent Sunni Cleric Criticized For Meeting With Khamenei Envoy

Monday, 11/14/2022
Maryam Sinaiee

A British Iranian journalist and political analyst and a regular contributor to Iran International

Many are criticizing Iran’s Sunni leader Molavi Abdolhamid for meeting with the Ali Khamenei's envoy despite the killing of many protesters in his native region.

“Molavi Abdolhamid made the greatest mistake if he met with Khamenei’s envoy. It’s totally unacceptable,” one of the many who criticized Abdolhamid for meeting with Mohammad-Javad Haj-Aliakbari tweeted before local sources confirmed that the meeting had taken place.

“Tell him they [security forces] were busy arresting Baluchis while he was speaking with Khamenei’s envoy. They killed two people for no reason just yesterday,” another twitterati retorted.

Molavi Abdolhamid, the leader of Iran’s largely Sunni Baluch population in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan and other local Sunni leaders met with Haj-Aliakbari and his accompanying delegation at the private residence of a local community leader in Zahedan Sunday.

State media said Haj-Ali Akbari was carrying “Supreme Leader’s greetings to the people of Sistan and Baluchestan” and to let them know that the recent events in the province have “saddened and upset him”.

However, what some media in Tehran reported about Haj-Ali Akbari’s statements, showed that his remarks had double meaning. At the same time that he spoke about resolving misunderstandings, he also said that he delivered “serious messages to Some” to be careful about their behavior.

Hal Ali Akbari, a prayer leader in Tehran and Khamenei's envoy visiting Zahedan

Abdolhamid has strongly criticized the authorities and said he holds Khamenei responsible for the violence against Sunni Baluchis and other protesters.

Haj Aliakbari who is one of Tehran’s interim Friday imams also heads the Policymaking Council of Prayer Leaders which sets the agenda for state-sponsored Friday sermons across the country.

Amnesty International said on November 10 it had recorded the names of at least 100 protesters and bystanders including sixteen children who were killed by security forces in Sistan and Baluchestan Province since September 30 but believes the real number is much higher.

Official media say four Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) forces as well as 35 protesters and bystanders were killed in Zahedan on September 30.

Baluch protesters in Zahedan in November

According to his official website, Abdolhamid said in the meeting with Khamenei’s envoy that the recent events were the outcome of “discrimination against the Sunni community”.

He added that on September 30, the deadliest day of the crackdown on protesters, security forces had fired live ammunition at peaceful protesters in Zahedan and insisted that the attack was unprovoked. Protesters who threw stones at a police station before they were shot did not intend to seize the station and there were no militants amongst them as claimed by the authorities, he said.

The IRGC-linked media called the killing of protesters in Zahedan, widely referred to as “Bloody Friday” on social media, “a terrorist plot” and blamed Jaish ul-Adl Salafi jihadist group, but the group denied any responsibility.

“If these claims were true at least several security forces would have been killed or wounded [during the September 30 crackdown]. But around 100 ordinary people were shot dead inside the prayer grounds and the bullets mainly hit their heads and chests.”

He also pointed out that security forces had fired live ammunition at protesters who were pelting the local governor’s office in Khash, another city in the Baluch part of the province on November 4.At least 18 protesters and bystanders, including two children, were killed in Khash.

Referring to security forces killed in the restive province in the past few weeks, Haj-Aliakbari lauded “security-defending martyrs” in his meeting with Abolhamid and other local leaders but also said Khamenei considers the locals who were killed “innocently, as a result of human error, or in other ways” as “martyrs”.

Khamenei’s envoy also said those arrested “whose crimes were small” will soon be pardoned by Khamenei but others will be dealt with “justly and decisively … so that such incidents won’t happen again” and blamed “those outside the country” for taking advantage of the situation in the restive province and accusing the people of the province of “separatism”.

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