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Iran TV Fires Managers, Fearing Widening Of Shiite-Sunni Divide

A gathering for a sermon of a Maddah, or Shi'ite eulogist. Observers say Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has mobilized Maddahs and their followers for political ends. File photo

Iranian State TV's Chief Ali Askari has dismissed the manager and controller of the TV's Channel 5 following a controversy surrounding a religious program that has insulted Sunni saints and Islamic sanctities.

The firing of two managers of the state TV, reflects the importance Tehran attaches to the controversy as a potential threat to the country's stability, as between 15 to 20 million Iranian Sunnis are already under pressure by religious discrimination, including limitations imposed on their religious leaders.

Videos recorded from the program which have gone viral on social media, show Ahmad Qadami, a well-known eulogist or a Maddah swearing at the second Caliph of the Sunnis without naming him. Later on the video, the eulogist is seen insulting one of the prophet's wives.

The program was broadcast live on Channel 5 of the state TV (IRIB which stands for the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) organization.

This comes while because of controversial remarks by eulogists against state officials including President Hassan Rouhani and his predecessors, a directive was issued by deputy IRIB Chief banning live broadcast of performances by eulogists.

Reports coming from Tehran on Sunday say that Javad Ramezan Nejad, the manager of the channel, and a controller who has not been maned have been fired.

IRIB deputy chief Morteza Mirbaqeri had said earlier that the producer of the program was dismissed and channel's manager and controller were "disciplined."

Ramezan Nejad was appointed to the post in July 2018 and according to Mehr news agency a deputy chief of IRIB had characterized him as "a jihadi manager with a style."

Ramezan Nejad previously managed the IRIB's Ofogh Channel which is linked with the revolutionary guards (IRGC) and broadcasts ideological program catered to hardline regime supporters.

The Eulogist, Ahmad Qadami, identified by Iranian social media users as a relative of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was questioned at a Tehran court on Sunday, detained for a few hours and finally released on bail.

Sunnis in Iran mainly live in the provinces of West-Azarbaijan and Kordestan near the borders with Iraq and Turkey, Golestan province bordering Turkmenistan, Sistan va Baluchistan province at the border with Pakistan and Hormozgan and Bushehr provinces by the Persian Gulf.

Sunnis have been for long complaining about discriminations that among other things prevents them from equal opportunities for employment in public sector and not having enough mosques even in Sunni-populated provinces.

The Iranian TV has been often criticized for biased reporting that has been fragmenting Iranian society by widening political, religious, economic and gender divides.

During the past decade, Ayatollah Khamenei has given special freedoms to less educated but otherwise loyal eulogists who are often used to mobilize mobs to attack critics and protesters.

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