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Iran Protesters Attack Seminaries, Clergy In Opposition To Clerical Rule

The aftermath of an attack on Kazeroon Seminary in Fars Province. November 17 or 18, 2019

Since widespread demonstrations against a three-fold increase in gasoline prices broke out four days ago, enraged protesters have attacked nearly nine Shi'a seminaries and Friday Prayer Imams' offices across the country, reports say.

Hawza news agency said that protesters on Friday night attacked Khuzestan's seminary, in the province's capital city, Ahvaz, southwest Iran, and set it on fire.

Meanwhile, Khuzestan's seminary maintained that forces affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' (IRGC) Baseej (Basij) (Organization for Mobilization of the Oppressed) rushed to the scene and did not allow the attackers to enter the seminary.

In a separate report, the news agency also said that protesters "Kosar" women's seminary in the township of Fardis, near the city of Karaj, 51 kilometers (about 31 miles) west of Iran's capital city, Tehran.

In the meantime, footage circulated on social media last Saturday shows furious protesters setting fire to Zainabiyyeh seminary in Isfahan, central Iran.

The Director-General of the province of Fars' seminary has also announced that people had attacked several religious schools in the region but named only two.

Furthermore, a website linked to the IRGC, Fars news agency reported that protesters attacked the Friday prayer location, and the Friday prayer Imam's office in the township of Qods, west of Tehran.

Fars also reported that enraged demonstrators attacked the office of the Friday prayer Imam in Bandar-i Imam (Imam's port) in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan.

Several videos circulated on social media also show the office of the prayer Imam in the city of Sadra, near Fars' capital Shiraz, burning.

Moreover, according to the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), the office of the city of Yazd's Friday Prayer Imam and the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader's representative in the region, Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Nasseri Yazdi, has also been attacked.

Slogans against the clerics who dominate Iran and calling for their downfall had been a central theme frequently chanted during the four-day-old uprising.

Responding to the anti-clergy slogans, the Friday prayer Imam in Shiraz, mid-ranking cleric, Lotfollah Dezhkam, referred to the founder of Iran's last royal dynasty, Reza Shah Pahlavi, boasting, "Despite his bullying, even Reza Khan failed to force the clergies to take off their turbans. In what position are you to call for the dismissal of the clerics?"

During widespread anti-regime protests in 2017 and 2018, enraged protesters had also assaulted the offices of Friday Prayer Imams, and the representatives of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, across Iran.

Many analysts believe that attacking Shi'ite seminaries in Iran does not necessarily indicate protesters' opposition to the religion itself.

Assaulting seminaries and offices of the Supreme Leader's representatives is rather an expression of people's dissatisfaction with the theocratic regime forced on Iran, they argue.