An official from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office has tried damage control following remarks by a female hardliner, which risk alienating even regime supporters.
“This country belongs to Hezbollahis,” said Mansooreh Masoumi-Asl, an aspiring politician with close ties to the ultra-hardliner Paydari Party on live TV on Saturday. The context clearly indicated that she was demanding the total exclusion of all but her own party from the media and politics including other hardliners and conservatives.
Mehdi Fazaeil, a member of Khamenei’s office who has been responsible for publishing his writings for several years, responded to Masoumi-Asl by quoting Khamenei’s remarks about the revolution and those who “own” it.
“The Leader of the Revolution: This is a divine revolution, and its pillars are the people… No one, no group, can and should lay claim to owning this revolution …This revolution is owned by the people,” is a quote from a Khamenei speech in June 2008 that Fazaeli posted on X Monday evening read.
However, Khamenei had also said in a speech that the country belongs to hezbollahis, which seems to have been the inspiration for Masoumi-Asl’s statement two days ago.
“This country is the country of hezbollahis, and its future will be built by these hezbollahis and revolutionary and pious forces. Whenever a problem occurs, they should come and solve it. God willing, this will be the case,” Khamenei had said in September 1995.
The term “Hezbollah,” originally employed to denote the Islamic Republic’s revolutionaries in their struggle against perceived evil forces, has never held official political party status. In common usage, “hezbollahi” has evolved to describe fervent supporters of the regime and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Hezbollah and hezbollahi (belonging to Hezbollah) became part of the political jargon in 1979, when Islamist revolutionaries described themselves as hezbollahi against the liberal who were soon excluded from the government.
Masoumi-Asl, who is very active on social media and is often invited by the state broadcaster (IRIB) to comment on an array of topics, is a member of the central council of the Paydari-affiliated Strategic Network of Islamic Revolution’s Helper (SHARIAN). The group held its first general meeting in early March.
Iranian media say the group which includes many officials of President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration, as well as deputy parliament speaker Mojtaba Zolnour, seeks to oust the incumbent speaker of the parliament, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf and his supporters in the upcoming March elections, and to take full control of the parliament.
The group’s activities have caused serious disputes between the Ghalibaf and the Raisi camps, Entekhab, a moderate conservative news website wrote Sunday.
“Our Iran is now at the center of a serious and dangerous development, and we witness a new episode of extremist behavior and deviations by hardliners. [They believe] whoever thinks differently should collect their things and get out [of the political scene],” Mostafa Faghihi, Entekhab’s chief editor, warned in a series of tweets.
Vahid Ashtari, an independent hardliner whistle-blower, tweeted that there are many theoreticians behind the phrase, ‘The country belongs to hezbollahis’ and several billions have been spent to promote this view. Many in power share this view, he said.
Ashtari who is an ardent supporter of the Islamic Republic but critical of most of the ruling cast and their corruption, also emphasized that limiting the criticism to Masoumi-Asl was “reducing the importance of the matter”.
“She will soon be given a good position [in the government] or become a lawmaker … She will mature a little bit and learn like others that she doesn’t have to say out loud everything that she believes in,” Ashtari wrote.
“Don’t mislead the people if you know where the roots of such a belief are and how it has affected policymaking, the money that has been spent, and the consequences it has had and tell the truth about this issue,” he added.