Who would dare tear up images of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini?
That’s the question being asked in Iran, after state television broadcast footage showing the tattered remains of a portrait of the founder of the Islamic Republic that was allegedly defaced during an opposition protest last week.
The images have sparked uproar and deepened divisions in Iran, where the leader of the Islamic Revolution is held in the highest esteem across the political spectrum.
Iran’s hard-liners are pointing the finger at the opposition Green Movement, saying that its leaders should be held responsible for the incident, which reportedly took place during Students Day demonstrations on December 7.
On December 12, government supporters and seminary students denounced the “insult” in protests across Iran.
One day later, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei blamed opposition leaders and defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi for creating the conditions that allowed the insult to happen.
“They [the opposition protesters] chant slogans about following the law, but they are openly violating the law. They chant slogans in support of the Imam [the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini], but they are insulting Imam Khomeini,” said Khamenei.
He added that as a result of their actions, Iran’s “enemies got hope and insulted the Imam,” a reference to Khomeini, who died in 1989.