Sprint Long Distance

The Iranian


email us

Sprint Long Distance

Flower delivery in Iran

Fly to Iran

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

    News & views

Religion meets politics in Khatami death plan

Tehran (Reuter) - The recent uncovering of a plan to assassinate moderate Iranian President Mohammed Khatami has opened a rare window on the murky world where religion and political violence intersect in the Islamic Republic.

News of the plan was made public earlier this week when a prominent conservative politician said a member of the elite Revolutionary Guards unit assigned to protect the president had planned to kill Khatami.

Ahmad Tavakoli, a former presidential candidate and newspaper publisher, told students in Tehran the plan suggested future threats could not be ruled out.

He gave no other details.

But interviews with members of the circle near the president, as well as with clerics in the holy city of Qom, reveal an affair caught up in the nexus of politics and religion.

These sources said the would-be assassin - a member of the so-called "second line" of the presidential bodyguard, outside the inner protective ring - travelled to Qom, two hours from Tehran, to seek religious sanction from senior clerics for his plan.

He first approached Ayatollah Hossein Nouri-Hamadani about six weeks ago, but the cleric refused to endorse the attempt or to issue a decree, or fatwa, giving it religious approval.

Armed with such a fatwa, say experts, the attacker would have had immunity under religious law to carry out the assassination.

But Nouri-Hamadani turned the man away and sent him to another senior cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Fazel-Lankarani.

Both Nouri-Hamadani and Lankarani have been designated by the supreme leader as among Iran's most senior theologians, and both are conservatives opposed to Khatami's cultural and political liberalisation.

"He went to Nouri and Nouri sent him off to Fazel," one well-connected cleric and teacher said by telephone from Qom.

"Fazel's son contacted Khatami's office immediately...and he informed them of the case," said the cleric, adding the ayatollah's son had incurred the anger of Iran's hardliners for turning in the suspect.

The unnamed bodyguard was later picked up by the intelligence service of the Revolutionary Guards. His fate is unknown.

The president's office declined comment on the case, which has focused renewed attention on the potential vulnerability of President Khatami. It also recalls earlier instances of political violence carried out with apparent religious sanction.

In March, a gunman seriously wounded a senior Khatami ally, shooting him once in the head at close range before escaping on the back of a high-powered motorcycle.

Authorities rounded up about a dozen suspects shortly after the shooting, most from the poor district of Shahr-e-Rey, in the south of Tehran.

Five were later convicted and sentenced to between three and 15 years in jail. Friends and acquaintances said among their number was the son of a prayer leader, but the connection was never officially acknowledged.

These same friends said the group, a circle of religious militants, relied on sanction from hardline clerics before carrying out a series of armed attacks in and around their district against anyone deemed insufficiently "Islamic."

A string of mystery murders in 1998 of secular dissidents was also initially said to have been approved by hardline clerics, but the case has stalled amid intense political factionalism. The clerics involved were never identified.

Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, the leading theoretician of the right, last year outraged reformers backing the president with his call to arms against their modernist interpretation of the faith that includes "tolerance" of diverse views.

"If anyone says he has own interpretation of religion, sock him in the mouth," Mesbah-Yazdi once said, laying down a marker for the hardliners.


 MIS Internet Services

Web Site Design by
Multimedia Internet Services, Inc

 GPG Internet server

Internet server by
Global Publishing Group.