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A Grand Ayatollah Is Chastised For Meeting With Reform-Minded Politicians

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi (L) and Grand Ayatollah Shobeiri-Zanjani (R).

The Chairman of the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom has lambasted a Grand Ayatollah for meeting with a handful of pro-reform political figures, including former President Mohammad Khatami.

In an open letter, 87-year old Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi has harshly criticized 90-year old Grand Ayatollah Moussa Shobeiri Zanjani for meeting with the pro-reform politicians during a visit to the Iranian capital Tehran.

Iranians on social media, including younger clerics attacked Yazdi for his inappropriate language and one high-ranking cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Andalib Hamadani, resigned from the society of seminary teachers in protest to Yazdi's action.

Earlier, images had been circulated showing Grand Ayatollah Shobeiri Zanjani meeting with his former students who later became high-level government officials.

They included mid-ranking clergy and former President Khatami (1997-2005), former Attorney-General of Iran and the mentor of the "students" who stormed the U.S. Embassy in 1979 and taking 52 American diplomats hostage, Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha, former Minister of Interior, Abdollah Nouri and former the former Minister of Culture, Abdolmajid Moadikhah (1981-82), as well as former Qom seminary student and Mayor of Tehran, Gholamhossein Karbaschi (1990-98).

President Hassan Rouhani visiting the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom. Next to him at the head of the table is Ayatollah Yazdi. (File photo)
President Hassan Rouhani visiting the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom. Next to him at the head of the table is Ayatollah Yazdi. (File photo)

Yazdi, who leads the influential Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom described the former officials as "troublesome individuals".

The society led by Yazdi and fully supported by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a college of the so-called ultraconservative senior clergy who solidly back the Supreme Leader’s positions on all issues, especially his tough line even against those within the regime who might have a different opinion.

In his open letter, Mohammad Yazdi has argued that since he had not received any "convincing response" to his previous correspondence, he decided to publicly circulate his latest letter.

"Your high position and status relies on having respect for the Islamic establishment, its leader and the dignity of the position of the [Shi'ites] source of emulation," Yazdi has reiterated, warning, "Therefore, you should necessarily respect the position and the requirements of a source of emulation; and take relevant measures to avoid such incidents (receiving "troublesome" political figures).

​Yazdi is known for his bad temper that has been repeatedly criticized by the people and state officials such as former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who said sarcastically in response to his insults against other clerics that "He is not feeling well, but would get better, I'm sure."

Yazdi has lost most of his positions including that of Tehran's Friday prayers leader during the past years because of his bad temper and bad language.

The head of Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom is appointed by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. The body dominates the Supreme Council of Qom seminaries, and proposes judges to the judiciary.

It has also demoted dozens of clergy over the last four decades, including pro-reform Ayatollah Yousef Sane'ei for his solidarity with the Iranian Green Movement, whose leaders have been under house arrest since 2011. The conservative body demoted Sane'ei's from the position of marja' to hojatoleslam (lower ranking Shi'ite clergy).

While all "officially recognized" Ayatollahs and Grand Ayatollahs strictly follow the guidelines of the Society, the majority of the "popularly recognized" high-ranking clergy and sources of emulation have always done their best to remain apolitical since the advent of the Islamic Republic in 1978.