Iran Risks Losing Clout in Iraq by Arresting Shiite Cleric Shirazi


The repercussions of Iran’s controversial arrest of the Shiite cleric Hussein Shirazi could include a weakening of Iranian influence over Shiites in Iraq. On March 6, Iranian authorities arrested Shirazi, who was beaten and insulted in front of his father, Grand Ayatollah Sayed Sadeq Shirazi, while the Shirazis were on their way home in the city of Qom. Hussein’s detention stems from a recent lecture he gave to Qom seminary students on jurisprudence in which he compared the practices of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, to those of oppressive Egyptian pharaohs who couldn’t be criticized or held accountable for their actions.

Hussein Shirazi and his father hold dual citizenship in Iran as well as in Iraq, where their influence is especially strong. Their family, whose roots date back 150 years in Iraq, founded the Shirazi political movement, which has followers across the Middle East. The Shirazi movement has traditionally held that a council of Islamic jurists should be in a position of authority in a country, rather than just one supreme leader, such as has been the case with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini or Khamenei.

Iraqi demonstrations against Hussein Shirazi’s arrest broke out in front of the Iranian Consulate in Karbala, the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad and near the border with Iran in Basra. The protesters shouted slogans against the Iranian regime’s ongoing repression of their religious leaders in Iran, and demanded Shirazi’s immediate release. They also called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his government to intervene and pressure Iran to release Shirazi.

 

In London, members of the Iraqi community protested in front of the Iranian Embassy. Four people were arrested after they climbed onto the porch and lowered the Iranian flag and then raised the Shirazi flag. British police intervened to restore calm.

Protests also took place in Kuwait and other Arab countries. During a demonstration in front of the Iranian Embassy in Kuwait City, Sheikh Yussef Mulla Hadi, a leader in the Shirazi movement in the country, described the Iranian regime as a dictatorship masquerading under the banner of velayet-e faqih (clerical rule) and demanded that Shiites around the world renounce it.

 

 

Read full article by Ali Mamouri on al-Monitor, March 19, 2018


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