The March 6 arrest of Shirazi by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which has caused protests in Iran and the Arab world, has reignited the debates over whether Khamenei can claim that his absolute power in Iran is sanctioned by Allah.
The debate over the power of the Supreme Leader has been going on in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but with the recent uprising in Iran, more people are questioning the clerical rule.
Shiite communities are indeed arguing that these monarchical-like powers are antithetical to the Shiite tradition and recommended scrapping the position of the supreme leader.
The protests began in Iran, but after Shiite clerics in Kuwait and Iraq condemned the arrest, protests sprang up in Karbala, Najaf, Basra, and Kuwait City.
Soon protests even spread to the Iranian Embassy in London, where four demonstrators were arrested for climbing onto the porch and taking down the Iranian flag.
They were not large protests, ranging from several dozens to several hundred participants, but they are still notable, especially against the backdrop of the ongoing anti-regime protests in Iran.
Prosecutor-general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has attempted to minimize the influence of those who support the Shirazis views, but as the protests spread this has become significantly more difficult.
There are even reports that the Iranian authorities released Shirazi on March 18, retracting the 120-year sentence,
Geneive Abdo wrote on Awwsat: “[This] illustrates the Islamic Republic’s struggle to balance a growing sense of vulnerability with the fear of alienating the body of clerics upon whom its legitimacy ultimately rests.”
The Shirazi family
The Shirazi family are incredibly influential within Iran, having been clerics since the 19th century. Shirazi’s father Grand Ayatollah Sadiq Shirazi is also a strong opponent of Khamenei’s rule and maintains a large media presence, giving lectures in Persian and Arabic with English subtitles that are broadcast on 18 television channels and three radio stations across the Muslim world.
Some leading figures in the Shirazi school have advocated for the total separation of religion and state, while others merely oppose the Supreme Leader’s absolute power.
Even outside the Shirazi school, there are many clerics who oppose supreme clerical rule on theological grounds. They simply do not believe that a living person should have divine and absolute powers and so, the supreme leader cannot represent God on earth.
The widespread protest movement in Iran is encouraging these religious leaders to speak up against the Regime and soon the Supreme Leader and the Regime will fall to the people of Iran.