The Iranian elites' deafening silence
When does a crack in a building become dangerous? When it occurs in a load-bearing element and is so large you can see inside the structure, engineers say. In such cases, the house in question is ripe for demolition. Similarly in the case of monolithic systems. Often a single speech, an offhand remark or the public behaviour of a functionary is enough to reveal what is going on inside a system. Just as in a building, however, the crack that develops must cause a supporting element to totter.
Hamid Abazari, commander of the Revolutionary Guard, is one of the supporting pillars of the Iranian injustice system. Born 62 years ago in the Persian Gulf, he became a guardsman as a teenager and thus a "guardian of the revolution". He quickly rose through the ranks of the Revolutionary Guard's newly founded navy. In the early years, he was based in his birthplace on the strategically important Persian Gulf. Those were the war years with Iraq, and the Strait of Hormuz was considered the eye of the needle for the world's energy supply.
Since then, Abazari has taken on many posts, most recently as vice-commander of Imam Hossein University. The military university is one of Revolutionary Leader Ali Khamenei's most important institutions. It is here that the commanders and officers of the Revolutionary Guards are trained. Khamenei watches over the teaching staff meticulously; he attends the graduation ceremony every year and gives speeches. Attached to the college is a university where science and military technology are taught.
Mohsen Fachrizadeh, a nuclear physicist who was probably murdered by the Israeli secret service in 2020, was the most prominent professor at this university. He is considered the father of the Iranian nuclear programme. The American magazine "Foreign Policy" listed him as one of the five hundred most powerful people in the world. The hurdles to be admitted to the university are very high. To be appointed a commander like Abazari, you need to be close to Ali Khamenei.
Social media uproar
On 27 December, Brigadier General Abazari made a remarkable appearance on regional television in Mazandaran province. He spoke about resistance, perseverance and the need to fight against "troublemakers and counter-revolutionaries". However, he also spoke at length about the psychological challenges of this struggle. Literally, he said, "Even I as a commander do not know what will happen tomorrow. I know of great commanders who have found themselves unwilling and unable to carry on. It is these vital war commanders who are weakening and going against our values."
The video instantly went viral. The Revolutionary Guard had to react, keeping quiet was pointless, the message was too clear and too well documented on the Internet for that. At first, they hoped to put an end to the speculation about a rift in the leadership. This was not their position and did not correspond to reality, they said, rather it was the personal opinion of Brigadier General Abazari.
The following day, Gholamhossein Gheybparvar, former commander of the Basij forces, criticised "some elites" for still remaining silent on the unrest, as if they had already given up on the Islamic Revolution. "We do not deny that we have economic problems, high prices, unemployment and other difficulties, but we must not waver or show any weakness in this situation," said the senior Guardsman.
Earlier in December, the hacker group Black Reward had circulated files containing exclusive security briefings intended for Hossein Salami, the Revolutionary Guard’s commander-in-chief. One of the documents said Khamenei had complained to Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel that large sections of the elites in the Islamic Republic were remaining silent on the unrest. Haddad-Adel is the father-in-law of Khamenei's favourite son Mojtaba, who is to succeed his father in the post of Supreme Religious Leader.
Surrounded by the most radical
By the silent elite, Khamenei also means the influential clerics in Qom, the centre of Shia scholarship, who have unconditionally defended Khamenei's rule for the past thirty years. For a long time, the Grand Ayatollahs Makarem, Nuri Hamedani and Amoli approved of everything Khamenei ordered and were constantly present in the media, but this is no longer the case.
Now Khamenei is only surrounded by the most radical supporters. On 7 January 2023, when two demonstrators were executed, he also dismissed his police chief, Hussein Ashtari, likely for a lack of brutality. He was replaced by Ahmad Reza Radan. Sixty-year-old Radan was the country's police chief in 2009, at the height of the mass protests. His many atrocities back then, including torture and murder, are well documented.
Radan, who is on the international sanctions list, is also considered the architect of the "Gashte Ershad", the so-called morality police, and advocates strict adherence to hijab regulations. With Radan, the tolerated loosening of the headscarf requirement, which has been seen on the streets of Tehran recently, is likely to come to an end – sooner rather than later.
The intensified repression is also taking on absurd features. Last week, for example, a man was arrested for posting a recipe for hamburgers on Instagram. The day of publication was the anniversary of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the Americans. One popular anecdote in circulation is that Donald Trump made mincemeat out of Soleimani.
© Qantara.de 2023