Prominent Sunni and Shiite clerics in Qom and Zahedan have come under attack by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's aides and supporters during the past days.
Tehran Friday prayers Leader Mohammad Javad Haj Ali Akbari went to Zahedan this week as Khamenei's envoy to try to pacify growing opposition among Sunnis after two attacks by the IRGC on Friday prayers in Zahedan and Khash where more than 100 Sunnis were killed. Following his meeting with prominent Sunni Leader Mawlana Abdolhamid, Akbari harshly criticized him and other Sunni clerics for being ungrateful for what he said the Islamic Republic has done for them.
Reports from Tehran said that during the meeting Abdolhamid complained about government discrimination against Sunnis and said that Khamenei has not replied to several of his letters.
Finally, the Sunni leader spoke publicly. Abdolhamid wrote in a November 16 tweet: "We expected the Leader's envoy to see the realities on the ground, condemn the crimes that were committed in Zahedan's bloody Friday, and appease the family members of those who have been killed or wounded in the attacks and to uphold their rights rather than threatening and intimidating the oppressed people."
Before haj Ali Akbari's visit, some reports said that Abdolhamid had refused to see him. Regardless of this, there have been no photos published and it remains a mystery whether the meeting took place or not. What is certain, however, is that Khamenei's envoy threatened the Sunni leader. Abdolhamid's tweet was liked by more than 22,000 users and it was retweeted over 3,000 times.
Haj Ali Akbari during a Friday sermon in Tehran. Undated
Social media activists have posted a video of a long motorcade of SUVs escorting Abdolhamid and said threatening or arresting the Sunni leader was impossible.
In another development, on November 9, the picture of a fatwa [religious decree] issued by Iranian reformist religious leader Ayatollah Assadollah Bayat-Zanjani was posted on social media. In the fatwa, Zanjani, who is a "source of emulation" [one of the highest ranks among Shiite Clerics in Iran] stated that "It is obligatory for every Muslim to defend against plainclothes agents who attack protesters with guns or knives." The fatwa was issued in response to a question about what Iranian protesters should do if they are attacked by armed plainclothes officers.
Subsequently, the Cultural Council of the Qom Seminary sent a letter to Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani and Ayatollah Alavi Brooujerdi and a number of other Shiite clerics and threatened them for defying Khamenei's orders and rule.
The letter said that the clerics have ignored Khamenei's previous order to submit to his rule and compensate for their mistakes.
The rude letter further told the Ayatollahs they deserved this warning for the untimely opening of their mouths. It further told the clerics not to be deceived by the enemies who might praise their actions in order to take advantage of them.
"During the recent sedition, you have once again proven with your untimely statements to lack insight and intuition. We hope that as Supreme Leader Khamenei has said, your action is the product of your ignorance. You should repent your divisive and provocative statements that have given way to riot and insecurity and made many families mourn for their loved ones," the letter said.
The letter further called on the clerics “to take a lesson from the fate of the revolution's enemies.” It then listed a number of state officials and clerics who were sent to exile or house arrest because of their opposition to the Islamic Republic and its leaders. The letter warned that the window of opportunity for repenting will not remain open for long.
This is the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic that such threats are made openly, publicly and without reservations against senior ayatollahs.