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Academics, Students Warn Khamenei About Divide Between People And Government

People protesting higher gas prices and government policies on a highway in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019.

Dozens of younger-generation Iranian conservatives have expressed concern over serious political and structural problems facing the Islamic Republic in an open letter addressed to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The letter warned about the divide between the people and the government which has grown wider than ever in a way that the people have lost all of their hope and faith in the government. If this divide is not tackled, "nothing will remain of the regime's legitimacy," the signatories warned.

The letter was published on the Telegram channel of Saeed Zibakalam, a conservative figure whose candidacy for the upcoming Majles election was terminated after his disqualification by the Executive Committee at the Interior Ministry.

It appears the signatories are not individuals who are promoted by the regime's hardliner wing.

The letter has been signed by around 100 university students and academics as of Thursday afternoon January 2, but it is still open for more signatures.

The main theme of the letter is the consequences of the gas price hike in November that led to nationwide protests during which around 1,500 protesters were reportedly killed by security forces and more than 8,000 others imprisoned.

The signatories protested the setting up of a council made up of the heads of the executive, legislative and judiciary powers of the government which among other things made the decision about a three-fold gas price hike in Mid-November.

The letter reminds Khamenei of his previous statements in which he called for respect for the law and it questioned the council's ability to provide an exit ramp from the “dangerous situation" in the country.

Referring to the "bitter experience of evading consultation with experts," the letter further questioned the compatibility of the measure taken by Khamenei with Iran's Constitutional Law.

Meanwhile, the signatories accused the council members, i.e., President Hassan Rouhani, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani and Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi) of "quasi-oligarchic behavior," and criticized their "non-transparent decisions."

They said what made the problem even more serious is that the nation has been kept in the dark about such a major change in the procedures of governance.

"The scope of responsibilities of the council is not clear. Their accountability is also ambiguous, and it is not clear how the nation can oversee or criticize their performance."

The letter then expressed concern over undermining the role and status of the Majles, asking whether the change in governance has made the existence of the Parliament meaningless in the Islamic Republic.

The signatories stressed that Khamenei's message to the lawmakers telling them not to intervene in issues related to the gas price was tantamount to suspending the Parliament.

Meanwhile, they attributed the November protests to the accrued effect of humiliating the nation, ignoring their rights and political and social freedoms as well as economic injustice. They also said that the officials' behavior in calling the protesters "thugs" and "rioters" has emboldened security forces to deal with them heavy-handedly, while there is no outlet left for the people to vent their anger, frustration and criticism.

Interestingly, Khamenei himself used “thugs” to characterize the November protesters.

According to the letter, by suppressing the protests, the government sent the message to the world that "We are a government that does not allow any serious criticism to any non-government media outlet and if the people take to the streets to voice their protest, they should wait for our bullets!"

The letter said the cause of the protests was "political corruption, inefficiency and ignorance of the government as well as discrimination and injustice," and called on the government to declare the casualty toll of November protests, in order to fulfill its minimum responsibility.

The signatories warned about the divide between the people and the government which has grown wider than ever in a way that the people have lost all of their hope and faith in the government. If this is not sorted out, nothing will remain of the regime's legitimacy, they warned.