In an scathing attack on the Islamic Republic policies, the most influential Sunni leader in Iran has called upon the military to stay out of politics and the economy and has demanded a change in the country’s foreign policy.
In an interview published July 25 by the official Sunnis information website (Sunni online) Maulana Abdol Hamid Ismaeel Zahi says, “It is better if military men return to their original vocation and leave political and economic fields to the civilians.”
It is the first time that the Sunni leader has publicly commented on the sensitive national issue of the military meddling in economic and political affairs of the country. Abdol Hamid was tacitly referring to the role of the members of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in the country’s economy and political arenas.
Furthermore, Abdol Hamid described the internal and international crises Iran is currently struggling with as “unprecedented,” adding, “The predominant problem of the country is political rather than economic.”
Encouraging the military to return to their primary job, the Sunni leader insisted that, by doing so, they would enhance their acceptance among the Iranian nation.
Abdol Hamid went further and criticized the Islamic Republic’s establishment, calling the two dominant camps of conservatives and reformists “unsuccessful” in addressing the country’s problems.
“The conservatives and reformists have failed to tackle national problems,” Abdol Hamid noted.
Referring to popular disappointment with the two dominant political camps in the country, the prominent Sunni community leader said, “Sunnis are also disappointed with the reformists. We also do not expect them to meet people’s demands by making a [real] change in direction.”
The Sunni leader’s comments somewhat echoed the main slogan of thousands of protesters who in late December 2017 and early January 2018 chanted in more than 100 cities across Iran, “Reformists! Conservatives! Your Days Are Over!”
Nevertheless, the leader of reformists and ex-president mid-ranking cleric, Mohammad Khatami, called upon the people last month to make a sacrifice and once again step forward, and participate in upcoming state-controlled elections.
But the Sunni leader openly questioned the legitimacy of elections organized by the Islamic Republic. Lambasting the Guardian Council (GC), the body in charge of vetting the nominees in parliamentary and presidential elections, Abdol Hamid said, “The current Majles (Iranian parliament) is the outcome of the GC’s decisions. Majles, in spite of its forty years of activity, is not in a situation to lead the country and the nation to the position it deserves.”
According to the prominent Sunni cleric, one of the main problems in Iran today is GC’s insistence on tightening the regulations for qualifying nominees in parliamentary and presidential elections.
Meanwhile, Abdol Hamid blasted the Islamic Republic authorities for setting restrictions on the activity of the religious minorities.
“Although the Sunnis enjoy relative freedom in the predominantly Sunni regions of the country, they still are under pressure in larger cities and the towns where they are in the minority,” Abdol Hamid said
Moreover, the 72-year-old Abdol-Hamid bitterly criticized the lack of equal rights for religious and ethnic minorities in Iran. He said Iran’s constitution stipulated those rights. “Therefore, Sunnis must have the right to hold public office and public-sector jobs, especially in the country’s majority-Sunni provinces,” Abdol Hamid asserted.
Last year, Abdol Hamid was allowed to travel out of the country for the first time in almost a decade.
In an unprecedented move the Sunni leader also criticized Tehran’s foreign policy. Implicitly saying that the Islamic Republic policies have encouraged other Muslim countries to seek rapprochement with Israel, Abdol Hamid called upon Iranian leaders to change their foreign policy.
Abdol Hamid went even further by implicitly criticizing Iran’s military intervention in the Syrian civil war.
“Besides political and diplomatic issues, no individuals and state institutions in any country should be allowed to engage in military activities in other countries, for it will be against those countries’ national interests.