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Seminary Brigade In The Spotlight In Wake Of Anti-Rouhani Protest

Anti Rouhani protest in Qom, Iran.

The head of a student military brigade in the Shi’ite holy city of Qom has been fired after allowing a protest against President Hassan Rouhani to take place at the seminary where the students study.

Hossein Tayyevifar was replaced by Izzatollah Mo’tamid as head of the Imam Sadiq Brigade October 1. After his dismissal, Tayyevifar was immediately appointed as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) deputy for clerical affairs.

The protest rally that apparently led to commander Tayyebifar's dismissal took place August 16 at Iran’s major Shi’ite seminary in Qom. Based on a report published by the government-run newspaper Iran, the protest rally was co-hosted by the IRGC's Imam Sadiq Brigade.

The assembly soon turned into a demonstration against President Hassan Rouhani.

Shi’ite seminary students, who receive stipends from the office of the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other conservative top clergy, chanted angry slogans aimed directly at Rouhani.

Tasnim, a news agency affiliated with the IRGC, reported the rally was held under the banner of "demanding economic justice" and that participants called for the punishment of unnamed individuals they accused of financial corruption.

The protesters threatened Rouhani with the fate of his mentor and ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died under suspicious circumstances while swimming in a pool January 8, 2017. Protestors reportedly chanted that a “pool is waiting” for anyone in favor of continued negotiations with the U.S. over the now seemingly defunct nuclear deal.

Referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers that the U.S. withdrew from in May, some of the protest signs read, "six years of negotiation led to nowhere,” and “supporters of JCPOA, return and obey the Supreme Leader.”

After two grand ayatollahs, Nasser Makerem Shirazi and Hossein Nouri Hamadani criticized the rally at the seminary, the IRGC denied any involvement.

The Imam Sadiq Brigade has been repeatedly been used as a tool for suppressing any cleric who dares to challenge the current Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During the three decades of Khamenei's leadership, the Imam Sadiq Brigade has played the pivotal role in attacking the offices of dissident Ayatollahs, including Hossein Ali Montazeri and Ahmad Azari Qomi.

In a historic speech in 1997, Ayatollah Montazeri bitterly derided the brigade, which he called “a bunch of children.” After this speech, Montazeri was immediately placed under house arrest by direct order from Khamenei. The order was carried out by the Imam Sadiq Brigade along with other security forces.

Although President Rouhani has so far not commented on the protest rally, Qom’s Special Clerical Court announced in September that following a complaint from Rouhani’s Administration, it had summoned for questioning five seminary students who attended the rally.