Last week, the Khamenei regime indulged in an extravagant and deceitful display, masquerading as reverence for Imam Hussein and Arbaeen. While the exploitation of religious and spiritual ceremonies is an age-old tactic employed by the hypocritical mullahs ruling Iran, the societal conditions in Iran this year made everything different.
Imam Hussein is a revered figure among Shiite Muslims. In the seventh century AD, he valiantly fought against those who claimed to be followers of the Islamic Prophet but were in fact driven by greed and oppression, striving for wealth and exploitation of the people. Alongside a small group of his followers, he was brutally martyred. He symbolizes justice and resistance against tyranny, and Shiite Muslims commemorate the fortieth day after his martyrdom as Arbaeen (meaning ‘fortieth’ in Arabic).
Nowadays, while poverty and numerous economic woes have brought Iran’s society to the brink of explosion, this year’s lavish Arbaeen spectacle led to expressions of concern from officials and government agencies.
Hassan Bahramnia, the governor of Ilam province, said on state television, “6.4 trillion tomans were spent on Arbaeen’s infrastructure.”
The Ministry of Labor in Ebrahim Raisi’s government announced that employees in this department would receive three days of incentive leave, 5 million tomans in assistance, and one million tomans for each member of their family to participate in the Arbaeen procession.
The state-run Didban Iran reported on September 2, “With the 850 billion tomans allocated by the Ministry of Welfare for the Arbaeen trip of its employees, 1,500 units of 70-square-meter apartments under the National Housing Scheme could be built from scratch, creating 5,700 jobs with 150 million tomans in loans.”
In a television interview, the head of the Arbaeen Headquarters in Tehran Municipality also announced the allocation of a 40-billion-toman budget by the regime’s City Council for the Arbaeen ceremony in Tehran.
Ramezan Sharif, the spokesperson for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, declared, “Nearly 150 large trailers are exclusively in the service of transporting the Mawkibs’ (service tents) kitchens.”
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) September 8, 2023
On August 23, the state-run newspaper Jomhouri Eslami raised questions about “the mobilization of many executive, law enforcement, security, intelligence, service, banking, transportation, and budget allocation for government agencies, companies, and municipalities to organize the Arbaeen procession” and asked, “What is the justification for this?”
These extravagant expenditures have fueled internal factional disputes and have also drawn criticism among state officials and media outlets. On September 5, Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi, the Secretary of the Assembly of Researchers and Lecturers of the Qom Seminary, voiced his protest, stating, “These excessive budgets are sinful when people are starving.”
The Jomhouri Islami also wrote on August 23, “Certainly, such actions do not serve the country, religion, or Imam Hussein… What logic allows all these forces, resources, and budgets, paid from public funds, to be spent on a promotional maneuver that neither Imam Hussein needs nor solves any problems for the nation and the country?”
The pressing question at hand is why Khamenei is organizing expensive events at a time of economic crisis and heightened social unrest. Ebrahim Raisi’s comments during a meeting with government-linked individuals on the same day as Arbaeen (September 6) may provide some insight into this matter.
During a speech to those participating in the Arbaeen procession, Raisi remarked, “Your presence has generated strength, just as it did on Quds Day and February 11 (the anniversary of the 1979 revolution). It is the people’s presence that has generated these strengths.”
Rahman Jalali, the Deputy for Political and Security Affairs of Kerman Province, also acknowledged that the regime pursues its security objectives through the Arbaeen procession and other religious ceremonies, stating, “The Arbaeen procession is a form of security narrative. Also, holding ceremonies like Tasu’a and Ashura are other examples.”
With a comprehensive review of the recent actions of the clerical regime, it becomes evident that their desperate security needs and the substantial expenses incurred to cling to power hold deeper implications. This is because a weakened and powerless state necessitates a more conspicuous demonstration of strength.
Former IRGC commander and current member of parliament Javad Karimi Ghodosi echoed this sentiment on September 7 when he said on state television, “The leadership is aware that many are quitting. He keeps warning us not to lose spirit!”
Through the Arbaeen procession, Khamenei aims not only to showcase authority and security to boost the morale of his dwindling and disheartened forces but also to achieve other objectives: compensating for the anticipated low turnout in the upcoming parliamentary elections and intimidating a populace emboldened by the anniversary of the uprising.
Khamenei also seeks to claim ownership of the Arbaeen procession, a long-standing tradition that has involved mass participation in Iraq for centuries, and impose his narrative on the event. He aims to solidify his influence in Iraq through paramilitary and religious intervention.
However, when the next uprising’s cry of “Death to Khamenei” resonates throughout Iran, it will also reach the streets of Baghdad and Damascus, where people have always chanted, “Iran, get out, get out!”
— منظمة مجاهدي خلق (@Mojahedinar) December 8, 2019