Khamenei used Jesus’ name in a series of tweets on Christmas Eve, describing the Christian savior and Muslim prophet as a would-be ally in conflicts against Israel and Iran’s adversaries. Rajavi, on the other hand, quoted the Jesus of the Quran as saying, “I shall bring blessing and dignity to all people wherever I may be.”
In her Christmas letter to friends and supporters of the Iranian resistance, Rajavi went on to call renewed attention to human rights abuses and the denial of dignity to ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, including Christians. In her one-page message she cited Tehran-backed attacks on Iranian exile communities in Iraq, as well as a series of acid attacks on improperly veiled women as examples of these human rights abuses.
Khamenei’s Christmas Even tweets appeared to be broader in scope but less specific and repeatedly used “Jesus” as a hashtag to criticize Israel and the “arrogant” powers that Tehran has long identified as its lifelong enemies.
“It’s time for all caring Muslims, Christians & Jews to obey the prophets & truly honor #Jesus’ birthday by standing up agnst Israeli crimes,” said one tweet.
Others linked the Christmas holiday to ongoing protests in the United States over the deaths of several African Americans at the hands of police officers. “Unconcerned abt the teachings of #Jesus, arrogants have tightened the living sphere for nations and oppressed ppl,” said another tweet, concluding with the trending hashtag “BlackLivesMatter.”
It is not the first time that Khamenei has co-opted Western activists social media campaigns to advance an Iranian agenda. In May, his official Twitter account used the American feminist hashtag “YesAllWomen” in order to tweet criticism of the “sexual sins” of Western nations and it their effect on families.
Khamenei’s English-language tweets on these and other topics consistently avoid addressing obvious contradictions between his remarks about foreign governments and his own country’s domestic policies, which include policies banning men and women from co-mingling in public places and barring members of ethnic and religious minorities from education and other government services.
Rajavi’s Christmas message of course addressed these issues in Khamenei’s stead. “We shall not forget all those jailed, tortured and executed simply for believing in a cause greater than themselves: Freedom,” she wrote before going on to look ahead to the future of the nation from which her group has been exiled since the 1980s: “In 2015, we will renew our commitment to a free, non-nuclear and democratic Iran.”