Theater of Cruelty

Ultra-conservative election offensive

The ultra-conservative forces in Iran may conquer the last shot.


[Iran] Will the ultra-conservatives also gain control over the body that appoints Iran's top spiritual leader? On August 13, Iran's interior minister announced that elections for a new expert council will take place on December 15. The Council of Experts, elected every eight years, consists of 86 clergy who are mandated to appoint the country's top spiritual leader.

- This is considered an important choice in Iran. The big question is whether the ultra-conservative forces also manage to gain control of the Expert Council. Seen from the outside world, it will probably be an unfortunate choice for Iran, says Kari Vogt, religion researcher and Iran expert.

The ultra-conservative wing is led by Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, who is considered to be President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's spiritual guide. It is now speculated as to whether Mesbah-Yazdi aims to become Iran's next supreme spiritual leader.

Indeed, if a majority decides, the Council of Experts may appoint the current Supreme Spiritual Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. If Mesbah-Yazdi and his wing succeed, they are ultra-conservative with further political power and influence in Iran.

- For the time being, the outcome of the election in December is completely uncertain. It can go in several directions, says Vogt.

Although it is the Iranian people who go to the polls on December 15, the election is far from free by democratic standards. The complicated electoral system in Iran also includes a Guardian Council. And the Guardian Council, which is deployed by Khamenei, has the role, among other things, of filtering out which candidates can be elected to the Expert Council. Thus, Khamenei will be able to greatly influence who can challenge his position.

Khamenei is considered to belong to a wing of classic conservatives led by Ayatollah Sharudi. The ultra-conservatives are also facing a third wing led by former Iranian President Ayatollah Rafsanjani. This wing is considered the most reform-minded, even though all the wings in the Expert Council are strongly conservative in relation to Islamic teachings, says Vogt.

- For people in Iran, it does not matter which of these wings wins the election. All represent a conservative Islamic doctrine and strong political control over the population. But for the rest of the world, Ayatollah Rafsanjani represents a more pro-reform line, says international leader of SV, Reza Rezaee, who in this context emphasizes that he speaks as an exile and private person.

- While the ultra-conservatives do not want contact with the United States, Israel and the West, Rafsanjani stands for a line of cooperation in the economic field through a market-oriented system.

Iran strikes down opposition

[ban] August 6, Iranian authorities ban ban for peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi's human rights group The Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC). At the same time, they threatened the group's lawyers with indictment if they continue their activities to secure the rights of political prisoners, women and minorities in Iran.

- This is a sign of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iran. The position of the ultra-conservatives is very strong today. We are constantly receiving new reports of human rights violations in the country, says Jon Peder Egenæs, head of the political team at Amnesty International Norway.

He points out that Ebadi's group has been dissolved, although the group has been very careful about staying and its activity within the Iranian system.

On July 30, student activist Akbar Mohammadi was found dead on a cell in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Mohammadi was arrested after the student demonstrations in Tehran in 1999.

- For Mohammadi's part, it is a miracle that he has lived so long, after being subjected to long-term abuse and lack of medical treatment in captivity, says Egenæs, who does not believe that these events can be linked to the election of a new Expert Council in Iran in December.

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