According to Iranian authorities, on Wednesday, a security guard shot and killed a prominent Iranian cleric and member of a powerful government committee at a bank in the northern province of Mazandaran.
The cleric, Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani, is seen sitting on a chair in the bank in footage from the CCTV camera that was broadcast by Iranian news outlets. At that point, the security guard casually approaches him from behind, points his rifle at his head, and fires a shot.
As the guard calmly moves to the side, 75-year-old Ayatollah Soleimani slumps in the chair with his white turban thrown to the ground.
Strangely, no one comes to the cleric’s aid right away, and the room stays pretty calm. The security guard is wrestled from his gun by two men, who then appear to let him go. The specialists said he was subsequently secured.
There were no other reports of injuries, and the cleric appeared to be the only target of the shooting.
“Up to this point, our data and reports show that this was not a security or fear based oppressor act,” Mohammad Hosseinipour, the legislative head of Mazandaran, said on state TV, adding that “the aggressor shot haphazardly and didn’t actually know Ayatollah Soleimani.”
Iran’s religious establishment, which has been the target of public outrage and protests for months, was shaken by the attack. President Ibrahim Raisi required a quick examination concerning the intentions of the professional killer and into whether there were associates.
Ayatollah Soleimani was a member of the powerful Assembly of Experts, a clerical body with 88 members that oversees the country’s supreme leader and names a successor if necessary. He had served for a very long time as the delegated delegate of Iran’s preeminent chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to the territory of Sistan and Baluchestan, and as a head of Friday Petition in a few urban communities. Targeted harassment and attacks on clerics have increased over the past year, despite the fact that gun violence is uncommon in Iran and the assailant’s motive was not yet known. Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody after being detained for allegedly violating Iran’s hijab laws, which sparked the revolt against clerical rule.
Shia clerics are viewed as emblems of the theocracy of the Islamic Republic, and many Iranians attribute the country’s numerous issues, such as social oppression, gender discrimination, corruption, and the dire state of the economy, to them.
Some young people started a movement called “turban tossing” during the protests that took place in Iran from September to January. In this movement, they would take a cleric’s turban, toss it to the ground, and upload a video to social media. Some theological school understudies in the city of Qom have told the Iranian news media that they have quit showing up in broad daylight in their administrative attire because of a paranoid fear of being gone after.
Mohammad Javad Akbarin, a former clerical apprentice at the Qom seminary who has since become a dissident, stated in a post that he made to Twitter following the shooting, “The society is so resentful of clerics that if it sees a gun it will shoot the first cleric in sight.”
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reformist minister and previous VP of Iran, posted a photograph on his Message channel on Tuesday showing him in his vehicle without his administrative turban. ” Not that I don’t have a turban,” he composed. ” It’s on the seat close to me so I don’t get slurs.”
The Revolutionary Guards Corps-affiliated Fars News Agency published a list of clerics who had been attacked in the past ten years in April 2022, stating that “the respect for religious clerics has diminished and they face insults.”
Around the same time, a Sunni fanatic outcast from Afghanistan cut three Shia priests, killing two of them, at a strict sanctuary in the northeastern city of Mashhad. In June 2022, the attacker was hanged.
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