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Cleric Says Most Sunnis Voting For Rouhani

Molavi AbdolHamid Ismaeelzahi, a Sunni theologian and a spiritual leader of the Sunni community in Iran.

Mawlana (Molavi) Abdol-Hamid, the famous Sunni cleric in Iran, has declared that most Sunnis are inclined to vote for the incumbent president, Hassan Rouhani, in the upcoming May 19 election, despite their complaints about his government.

The prayer leader of the southeastern city of Zahedan and a spiritual leader of the Sunni community in Iran also expressed hope that if Rouhani is elected, more serious attempts will be made to resolve existing difficulties.

The SunniOnline website quotes Abdol-Hamid as saying that after consultations, Sunni community leaders have concluded that compared with the former government of Mahmud Ahmadinejad the overall atmosphere has been more open and freer during the current government. As a result, he said, the majority of Sunnis feel inclined to vote for Rouhani.

Nevertheless, he criticized what he termed the failure of Rouhani’s government to address Sunni grievances. He was speaking at a meeting with a member of parliament from Tehran.

Abdol-Hamid repeated his recent complaints that Sunnis are not appointed in high-level governmental positions and a “lack of support from reformists when the Sunni community faces problems, despite the fact that Sunnis have supported [Rouhani’s] government.”

Rouhani, himself a centrist, and his government have been supported by reformists and overall is seen as representing the reformist current in Iranian politics.

On May 4, at Friday Prayers, Abdol-Hamid had criticized what he characterized as discrimination by the ruling system.

“Iran does not belong only to Sunnis or Shi’a or the Persians; Iran belongs to all ethnic groups and religious groups,” he said. “National unity and lasting security depends on the elimination of discrimination and equal treatment of all the nation.”

Four years ago, regions with substantial Sunni populations, such as Kurdish and Turkmen areas and Sistan-Baluchestan Province, gave the highest vote to Rouhani.

In Iran, Sunnis have been denied certain civic rights, including appointment to high-level government positions, although two years ago, a Sunni was appointed for the first time as ambassador to Vietnam and Cambodia. The Rouhani government has also appointed another Sunni, Emad Hosseini, as deputy oil minister.