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Two Rouhani Campaign Managers Questioned By Intelligence Ministry

Hassel Dasseh a Sunni former legislator who supported Rouhani in last May's election.
Hassel Dasseh a Sunni former legislator who supported Rouhani in last May's election.

Two Sunni former legislators and President Hassan Rouhani’s campaign managers in last May's elections have been summoned and questioned by Intelligence Ministry agents, Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, CHRI reported.

Jalal Jalalizadeh and Hassel Dasseh, Rouhani’s campaign managers in western Iran provinces were also insulted during the questioning, the report disclosed.

Hassel Dasseh, a Sunni former MP and deputy manager of Rouhani’s presidential campaign in Western Azarbaijan province was summoned on Saturday, November 11 and interrogated for hours at Tehran’s Laleh (formerly Intercontinental) hotel.

Citing an “informed source”, CHRI says “Intelligence Ministry’s agents insulted the former MP”.

Meanwhile, the agents ordered Hassel Dasseh to stop following up on people’s demands. “The election is over, go and sit at home”, the agents warned Dasseh.

Several days earlier, according to CHRI, another Sunni former legislator Jalal Jalaizadeh, who was the head of Rouhani’s presidential campaign in the mainly Kurdish populated province of Kurdestan, was also summoned by the Intelligence Ministry and ordered to disband a committee he has launched to follow up on Rouhani’s promises to the demands of the Kurdish community.

“Why did you get involved in the election in the first place and invited people to come forward and vote?” Hassel Dasseh, in his Facebook account, quoted the agents telling Jalal Jalaizadeh.

Dasseh had earlier maintained that a number of Shi’ite grand ayatollahs had contacted Hassan Rouhani and several reformist leaders, forbidding them to pick Sunnis for ministerial positions. However, he had not disclosed the name of the ayatollahs based in Shi’ites’ holy city of Qom.

Later, he also announced that the Interior Ministry’s deputy had told him that his ministry “is not permitted” to nominate Sunnis as governors.

In last May’s election, prominent Sunni figures supported the Rouhani. The mainly Sunni populated provinces of Kurdestan with 75% and Sistan and Baluchestan with nearly 73% of the votes helped Rouhani to achieve a decisive victory over his main ultraconservative mid-ranking clergy, Ebrahim Raeisi.

However, Rouhani preferred to keep Sunnis out of his cabinet and possibly avoid opening-up a new front against his conservative opponents and close allies of the Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In an interview with CHRI in September 2017, Jalalizadeh criticized Rouhani for not appointing Sunnis to his second-term cabinet.

“The Sunnis have taken part in these elections without any expectations, but it is unfortunate that reformists forget them after winning,” he said.

Sidestepping Sunnis led to a bitter reaction from prominent Sunni clergy and Friday prayer leader in Zahedan, capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province, southeastern Iran.

Molavi Abdol-Hamid was so disappointed that he implicitly warned Rouhani and his reformist allies that Sunnis might vote for their rivals in future elections.

“If Sunnis’ demands are not meted out, the reformists might lose their support,” Abdul Hamid cautioned. “We even might support the principle-ists (conservative hard-liners) in the next election if they campaign on an acceptable platform.”

Furthermore, Molavi Abdol-Hamid wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader, and in an unprecedented gesture, Khamenei decided to answer Abdul Hamid’s last letter, insisting that the senior officials of the Islamic Republic, based on the constitution, are “duty-bound” to refrain from discrimination against Iranian citizens.

However, according to Article 12 of the Iranian Constitution, the official denomination of the country is Twelver Imam Shi’a.

Moreover, Iranian Sunnis have not yet been allowed to build their own mosques in the capital, Tehran.

Discrimination against minorities has been institutionalized in the Islamic Republic’s laws and regulations that members of even officially recognized religious minorities have practically been thrown out of the elections arena.

The discriminations forced by the conservative have reached to a point that the membership of a popularly elected Zoroastrian candidate of Yazd City Council, Sepanta Niknam has been suspended.

Rouhani who campaigned on a platform promoting citizens’ rights has not yet formally reacted to the Zoroastrian’s suspension.