August 6, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 548

Ayatollah Khomeini's Grandson: 'Iran Needs Democracy and Separation of Religion and State;' 'The Iranian Regime Is the World's Worst Dictatorship'

August 6, 2003
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 548

The London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that Hussein Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, had left his place of residence in Iran's holy Shi'ite city of Qom to relocate to Iraq's holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, which is traditionally the seat of the highest Shi'ite religious authority, as a sign of protest against Iran's regime. [1]Hussein Khomeini, 46, called the Iranian regime "the world's worst dictatorship," and stated that the regime's heads, Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei and former president and current Expediency Council head Hashemi Rafsanjani"and everyone who has taken over the regime" since his grandfather's time "was exploiting his [Ayatollah Khomeini's] name, the name of Islam, and the religious regime in order to continue their tyrannical rule." Hussein Khomeini called for the separation of religion and state in Iran and expressed his expectation that the movement opposing the Iranian regime would gather momentum and turn into a popular movement.

The newspaper also noted that members of Iran 's Revolutionary Guards were now searching for Hussein Khomeini in Iraq because Iranian authorities fear that he could become a symbol of resistance to the Iranian regime. [2]The following are excerpts from Al-Sharq Al-Awsat's report:

From Qom to Najaf

According to the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report, tensions between Hussein Khomeini and Iran's religious leadership increased in recent years after Hussein Khomeini publicly lent his support to the students and reformists and issued statements that the Fatwas issued by the Judiciary against the Iranian students, intellectuals, and writers opposed to the regime were illegitimate. [3]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat added that Hussein Khomeini's move to Najaf, which was done without the knowledge of the Iranian authorities, sparked suspicion among Iran's conservatives, who are aware of the extent of Khomeini's influence in the religious seminary in Najaf and among the religious youth, as well as within reformist circles. According to a source close to the reformists, the Iranian authorities fear that Hussein Khomeini will become a new symbol of the religious opposition to the regime in Iran. [4]

According to the paper, from his temporary residence in a region of Iraq, prior to his move to Najaf, Hussein Khomeini stressed that Iran needed "a democratic regime that does not make use of religion as a means of oppressing the people and strangling society." He noted further that it was necessary "to separate the religion from the state," and "to put an end to the tyrannical rule of religion that was reminiscent of the rule of the Church during Europe's Dark Ages," and that "All those who took control of the centers of power of Iran after my grandfather are exploiting his name, the name of Islam, and the religious regime so as to continue their tyrannical rule."

'The World's Worst Dictatorship'

The paper also noted that Hussein Khomeini spoke of the dissatisfaction and the anger pervading the Iranian street, and that he considered the current religious regime in Iran to be "the world's worst dictatorship." According to the paper, Khomeini believes that Iran's escalating protest movement "would in not too long develop into a popular revolution, and soon we would see the great event, i.e. regime change." [5]

Khomeini, who has strong ties to some Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders and members of the Iranian parliament and the Iranian security apparatuses, emphasized that he was continuing his struggle in order to bring about a change in the situation in Iran. He stated: "Freedom is more important than bread. If the Americans will provide it, let them come – but the Iranian people is capable of determining the fate of the current regime by itself… What we need is international sympathy and understanding for our legitimate needs." [6]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat was informed that a squad commanded by a member of the intelligence service of the Revolutionary Guards known as "Assadi" had entered Iraqi territory the previous week in search of Hussein Khomeini, in order to assassinate him. An Iranian reformist source told the paper that Revolutionary Guards Deputy Commander Mohammed Baqir Dhu Al-Qadr had, in a meeting with top officials in the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence service, promised to put an end to the Khomeini phenomenon epitomized by Hussein Khomeini, just as his uncle, Ahmad Khomeini, was assassinated when he stopped supporting the regime and publicized his opposition to it. [7]

Najaf Versus Qom : Two Cities Holy to Shi'ites

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat noted that Hussein Khomeini's move to Najaf was considered a "painful blow" to the Iranian regime's years-long attempt to make Qom the capital of the Marja'iya, [8] as well as "a clear provocation to Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei." The paper added that since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, the idea of reviving Najaf's religious seminaries, opening new schools and rejuvenating the old ones, as well as the move by leading Qom clerics to Najaf, had attracted the attention of leading Shi'ite authorities who are opposed to the regime in Iran, as well as the attention of figures from the circle of Qom's religious seminary, which under the rule of Supreme Leader Khamenei is not independent. [9]

According to the paper, at the regime's order Iranian security authorities blocked sources of funding to the country's independent ayatollahs as long as they refused to accept Khamenei's authority, to consider him the Supreme Leader, and see him as the representative of the Master of Time. [10]

Four leading ayatollahs refuse to obey Khamenei: Ayatollah Hussein 'Ali Montazeri, Ayatollah Sadiq Ruhani, Ayatollah Yousuf Sani'i, and Ayatollah Muhaqiq Damad. [11]

The paper further reported that Hussein Khomeini spoke out against attempts by Sheikh 'Ali Ha'iri, who is close to the Iranian regime, [12] to impose the authority of Khamenei's control on the people of Najaf. Ha'iri, who is close to Maqtada Al-Sadr in Iraq , recently went to Iraq accompanied by personnel from the intelligence service of Iran 's Revolutionary Guards for this purpose. [13]

According to a source close to Hussein Khomeini, Khomeini considers Ayatollah 'Ali Sistani, Ayatollah Saeed Al-Hakim, and Ayatollah Fayadhi the "true Marja'iya" – that is, the true Shi'ite religious authorities. [14]

[1] The paper noted that while Hussein Khomeini is not a leading cleric, he does have special status and influence in Iranian society.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 29, 2003, August 4, 2003.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 4, 2003. The paper noted that Hussein Khomeini's relationship with Iran's regime had been tense since the death of his grandfather Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, and that this tension had become public following the death of his uncle (and Ayatollah Khomeini's son) Ahmad Khomeini and following the disclosure that Ahmad Khomeini had been assassinated by Iranian intelligence agents. During his last years, Ahmad Khomeini, under the influence of his nephew Hussein, had begun to speak out against the policy of the ruling group in Tehran, i.e. former president and current Expediency Council head Hashemi Rafsanjani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and accuse them of prolonging the war with Iraq in order to strengthen their rule and of removing Ayatollah Hussein 'Ali Montazeri from the position of designated heir of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 4, 2003.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Marja'iya – the source of Shi'ite religious authority, whose conduct must be imitated.

[9] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 27, 2003.

[10] i.e. the Hidden Imam, the religious leader ofall generations.

[11] Ibid.

[12] The brother-in-law of previous Iranian intelligence minister Mohammad Mohamdi Rish'hari, close to Supreme Leader Khameini and today serving in his office and son-in-law of Iran's Experts Council head Ayatollah 'Ali Mashkini.

[13] Sheikh Al-Baydha'i and Sheikh Al-Ashkuri, of Khamenei's office and his helpers in this. Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

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