Tuesday, February 8, 2011



Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Grand Ayatollah Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was born in Mashhad in the far north east of Iran, and studied in the leading Iranian religious seminary in Qom, before becoming involved in the struggle with the Pahlavi Regime in the sixties and seventies.

Champion of Iranian Solidarity
Although Khamenei was initially criticized for endorsing the June 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he has been acclaimed for his response to the post-election turmoil. He ordered the closing of the Kahrizak detention centre in response to reports of prisoner abuse and deaths. He has called for solidarity within Iran, in light of the 31st anniversary of the Islamic republic on February 11, 2010.

Defender of the Islamic Republic
As a response to the June sanctions on Iran passed by the U.N. Security council Khamenei publicly denounced the efforts of the U.S. and Western powers as weak attempts at 'bullying' Iran, in an effort to garner influnce as a defender of the Islamic Republic. This comes at a time when his support of President Ahmadinejad is seen as a blot on his influence. July protests against Ahmadinejad's tax increase on Iran's merchants were marked by public outcry against the Supreme Leader.

Supreme Leader, Velayat-e Faqih
Khamenei’s current influence stems from his powerful position as a religious leader, which gives him a unique role in political affairs. His job is to enact the Velayat-e Faqih - the guardianship of the jurist. In real terms this means a system where scholars of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) have a controlling say in the political affairs of the state. The rule of the jurist was a concept created by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, based on ideas that have run through Iranian political history since the time of Shah Ismail - who was the first to make Shi‘a Islam the national religion of Iran. The rule of the jurist was conceived in a battle against oppression as a way of safeguarding the Iranian nation from tyranny, giving the final say in all matters to a group of religious scholars, the Council of Guardians. This Council is headed by a chief arbitrator- the Supreme Leader.

Leader of Shi‘a Revolution
Khamenei gains much of his influence in Iran from his role as a leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran was forged out of the 1979 Revolution. Combating what many saw as the tyrannical rule of the Shah, Khamenei joined the Society of Combatant Clergy that staged demonstrations mobilizing many of the protests leading to the Shah’s overthrow. After the revolution in 1979, Khamenei was one of the founding members of the Islamic Republic Party, and a member of the assembly of experts that was responsible for drafting Iran’s new constitution.

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