The Friday Prayer Leader of Ahvaz, the capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province in Iran has resigned.
Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Jazayeri visited the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Monday February 18 and tendered his resignation, ISNA reports.
Ayatollah Jazayeri is considered a close ally of the Supreme Leader.
Jazayeri’s absence from official events during the past two weeks had led to rumors about his death, but his office issued a statement on February 12 saying that the 78-year old cleric was in good health and was visiting England, "to expand" on the "ideals of the Islamic Revolution."
This led to a lot of speculation in Persian-language media and jokes on social media about his “missionary” trip to Britain. It also led to criticism of state-sponsored ayatollahs occasionally visiting Europe for medical reasons, while most Iranians can never obtain a visa to travel to the West.
The ISNA report says that Jazayeri also reported on his “health” during his visit to Khamenei’s office. This means that his visit to the U.K. might have been for medical reasons.
Already after his return, in his Friday sermon on February 15 he alluded to possible retirement citing his old age and physical weakness.