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Khamenei and His Imams’ Difficult Task: Controlling Iran’s Volatile Society

In April 2018, protesters in Kazeroon, Fars province, invaded the city’s Friday Prayers venue and chanted angry slogans against the regime.

Iran celebrated Eid-al Fitr on Tuesday. Aside from bogus claims of “victory” over their “enemy” and anti-West rhetoric, the handpicked Imams acknowledged the country’s economic crunch, the presence of organized opposition in society, and the menace of a looming uprising.

These prayers come shortly after the Friday Prayers sermons, which reflected the regime’s absolute domestic and international deadlock.

“We are facing skyrocketing prices, which is very painful,” Ahmad Khatami, the Eid prayer leader in Jamkaran, near the city of Qom, acknowledged on Tuesday.  “The Islamic Republic has not reached a dead-end and will never reach one,” he claimed, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Besides the undeniable facts on the ground that point to the regime’s absolute deadlock, if the regime is “powerful,” why does Khatami have to underline it?

The prayer leaders in Iran are appointed by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They hold prominent positions and enjoy social privileges. The Friday prayer sermon, and other prayer sermons like the one on Tuesday, have become a significant place to spread propaganda and boost the morale of regime forces.

Since hijacking the 1979 anti-monarchic revolution, Iran’s ruling theocracy has used prayer sermons to transmit the supreme leader’s messages. The content of these messages stems from the regime’s situation. Thus, soon after the revolution, the mullahs established a multi-task religious apparatus to undertake the mission to fully implement their backward interpretation of Islam and destructive policies.

“Officials should prevent prices from rising. Local officials in Gilan province should endeavor to prevent people from having difficulties,” Rasoud Falahati, a prayer leader in Gilan province, northern Iran, said, as quoted by Fars news agency on May 3.

It seems that Khamenei’s representative in Gilan forgot that prices don’t obey orders and regime officials should abandon their corrupt policies for prices to decrease.

“The country suffers from two problems. First is the skyrocketing prices and those behind creating them. Second is the mal-veiling,” Ahmad Alam-ol-Hoda, Khamenei’s representative in Mashhad, said on Tuesday.

Alam-ol Hoda, aka “ruler of Khorasan province,” speaks of people’s livelihood while he oversees a financial empire, and his children occupy top positions. In addition, his son-in-law, Ebrahim Raisi, is now the regime’s president.

“The absence of virtue seriously impacts people’s living conditions,” he claimed, according to Fars news agency, an outlet linked to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

It is worth noting that there have been several acid attacks and hit-and-runs against women in Mashhad under the pretext of “promotion of virtue and prevention of vice.” Last week, the regime forces attacked women who attempted to attend a soccer match in Mashhad. These attacks were encouraged and later revealed to have been organized by Alam-ol Hoda.

“Some people are suffering from rampant prices and expect these problems to be resolved,” Kazem Sediqi, Eid prayer leader, admitted on May 3, according to Fars.

While acknowledging the increasing support of the Iranian Resistance and the role of social media, Sediqi called for “restraining social media platforms” that have been exposing regime officials’ misdemeanor and showing their true color.

Meanwhile, teachers and workers held nationwide rallies on May 1 and 2. The regime security forces later announced they had arrested some activists who were allegedly connected with Iran’s principal opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK).

Yet, Sediqi did not shy away from claiming that “workers have zealously supported the Islamic Republic and never answered the [MEK] calls to protest on the streets.”

The emphasis spoke volumes.

Iran has suffered from its worst economic and social crisis in the last century. Thousands of advertisements selling body parts or preselling babies on walls, images of children searching for food in the trash, and protests by people from all walks of life are testaments to the country’s triste yet an explosive state.

Facing a vibrant society, the regime has been rigorously holding these sermons as it desperately needs to legitimize its political, religious, and sectarian presence since the mullahs preserve the regime on the country’s ruins.

In other words, these sermons are politicized, intended to implement Khamenei’s policies, and proclaim political victory. To this extent, Khamenei has established offices and bodies supervising the appointment and dismissal of Friday prayer leaders. But the question is:  would Khamenei and his Imams attain their objectives?

Let us not forget that in 2018, in the midst of the Friday prayer sermon, the people in Kazeroon turned their back to the Friday Prayer Imam, chanting: “With our backs to the enemy, our eyes are on the country.”