Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani has attempted to justify the absence of prominent personalities, including former President Mohammad Khatami and Zahedan Sunni Friday Prayer leader Molavi Abdul Hamid at the swearing-in ceremony for President Hassan Rouhani by attributing it to “limited seating.”
Larijani has been bombarded with complaints for not inviting the reformist former president and the top Sunni cleric to the August 5 event.
“It is not fair to interpret limited seating as discrimination against religious or ethnic personalities,” Larijani said. “The presence of nearly 500 foreign guests at [Rouhani’s] swearing-in ceremony at the parliament confronted us with the problem of limited seats. Therefore, we were not able to invite all of the country’s prominent figures.”
However, Larijani’s deputy, Ali Motahari, dismissed his boss’ justification as an unfounded excuse.
“Such excuses are not acceptable,” he said. “Instead of such baseless justifications, it would be wiser to admit our deficiency.”
“We talk a lot about Sunni-Shi’a unity, yet we did not invite even one single Sunni clergy to the swearing-in ceremony. This is meaningless and not understandable,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Larijani’s other deputy, Masoud Pezeshkian, argued, “None of the supreme leader’s representatives or Friday Prayer leaders were invited to the ceremony.”
Nevertheless, many analysts begged to differ.
“These excuses are not acceptable as many footballers and actors were present at the ceremony,” Paris-based journalist Morteza Kazemian told Radio Farda.
“It is more saddening to remember that Zimbabwe’s notorious dictator, Robert Mugabe, was present at the ceremony whereas the prominent representative of millions of Iranian Sunnis was absent for not having been invited,” he said.
In May’s presidential election, all prominent Iranian Sunni leaders supported Rouhani in his bid for re-election.
In the mainly Sunni-populated provinces of Kurdistan and Sistan and Baluchestan, 75 percent and nearly 73 percent of the people voted for Rouhani, respectively.