A prominent Iranian official rebuked Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei‘s son for failing to respect the “legitimate freedoms” of Iran‘s people, three months into mass protests triggered by the killing of a young woman in police custody.
“This method of beating and arresting and killing will not work and sooner or later it will reach a dead end, and it must be stopped,” Supreme Council of Cyberspace member Mohammad Sarafraz, a former chief of the main Iranian state media operation, said in a new video. “This method of putting pressure on the people and not paying attention to their political and economic demands and their legitimate freedoms will not work.”
That criticism surfaced after Iranian protesters called for a three-day nationwide strike, which affected dozens of cities across the country, in a potential sign of unity between workers and the young protesters who poured into the streets following the death of Mahsa Amini in September. Sarafraz has a history of criticizing the government, but his latest comments carry greater significance, and potential danger, with the regime under strain from the protests.
“The longer the protests continue, and the more the voice of the Iranian people continue to be heard, the more likely you’re going … to have a narrowing circle of elites turning on each other,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior fellow Behnam Ben Taleblu told the Washington Examiner. “The peak of the protests, the regime’s tolerance and threshold [for criticism] is much, much lower.”
Iranian officials have turned to draconian punishments for dissidents in response to the intensifying protests, including the public hanging on Monday of Majidreza Rahnavard, a 23-year-old man accused of killing two Basij militia members.
“Human rights groups have warned that protesters are being sentenced to death after sham trials with no due process,” the BBC noted. “Rahnavard was denied a lawyer of his choice for his trial. The lawyer he was given did not put up a defense.”
Rahnavard’s killing is the second execution under official proceedings that the regime has acknowledged carrying out in connection with the protests, though Iranian officials and human rights monitors have issued separate assessments that hundreds of people have died in the protests. Tehran’s “flagrant and widespread disregard for the human rights of its own people,” as Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong put it on Saturday, has provoked human rights sanctions from Canberra to the United States.
“We are going to approve a very, very tough package of sanctions,” European Union High Rep. Josep Borrell told reporters Monday. “It was not an easy conversation with my colleague, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran … Iran has to understand that the European Union will condemn strongly and will take any action we can in order to support Iranian women, to support peaceful demonstrators and, certainly, reject this the death penalty.”
Sarafraz, an apparent associate of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, criticized Khamenei’s son by name. “The method Mojtaba Khamenei has chosen to rule is wrong,” he said, adding that he expects to be punished for his criticism. “I know that some kind of incident may happen to me by saying these words. I have also written a will.”