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Khomeini's Daughter Asks Khamenei: Let Rafsanjani Run

Ayatollah Khomeini's daughter Zahra Mostafavi has written to the supreme leader to ask him to intervene after the Guardian Council disqualified Hashemi Rafsanjani for the presidential race.

One day after the Islamic Republic of Iran's Guardian Council disqualified Hashemi Rafsanjani as a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, the daughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini asked Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a letter to intervene and change the decision, in order to keep "the regime and the revolution" from harm.

In the letter published on the Jamaran site, Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini also stated that she heard her father say that in addition to Ali Khamenei, he had also approved the name of Hashemi Rafsanjani as Iran's next supreme leader. This is the first time a member of Khomeini's family has explicitly spoken of the founder of the Islamic Republic's positive opinion of Rafsanjani as a potential leader of Iran.

The Guardian Council, the body responsible for vetting the presidential candidates, is comprised of six jurists appointed by the supreme leader and six lawyers who are indirectly picked by the supreme leader. On Tuesday [May 21] the council approved eight presidential candidates but rejected Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's protégé and closest adviser.

Rafsanjani, at the time of Ayatollah Khomeini's death in 1989, said that he had heard Khomeini say that he wished Ali Khamenei to be the future leader of the Islamic Republic. Hashemi's words inside the Council of Experts, the body charged with selecting the supreme leader, became the basis on which Ali Khamenei was elected.  For years, many critics have held Hashemi responsible for bringing Ali Khamenei to power and have frequently criticized him for it.

"On the same day I heard the imam's confirmation of your leadership from his own mouth, and I have consistently repeated that theory whenever necessary. I also heard him confirm the qualification of brother Hashemi, because the imam mentioned his name after your name. Fortunately and deservedly, you received the votes of the Experts; therefore, I did not see it necessary to mention any of this so far," Mostafavi said in her letter, and continued, "But unfortunately, when I see today that the Guardian Council has rejected his qualification for the presidency, I would like to remind you as a sister that this action has no meaning other than creating a rift between the two friends of the imam and a lack of attention to the newfound enthusiasm and reception of the people on the streets about the system and the elections."

Ayatollah Khomeini's daughter did not use the verbs "ask" or "request" in the letter, words commonly used to address the supreme leader in correspondence. Instead, she chose to "alert" the supreme leader that by changing the ruling of the Guardian Council, an act within his almost unlimited powers, he could save the country from turning into a dictatorship.

"Please intervene in this important issue, and do not allow one move to destroy all the efforts, and show why the imam used to say that 'the supreme jurist's position is for preventing arbitrary behavior,' and that 'the supreme jurist aims to prevent dictatorship.' Please help materialize the very philosophy of the supreme jurist again. I am sure that this request is the wish of many individuals who care for the system, people who are concerned about the situation of the Islamic Iran, and whose hearts beat for hearing the echo of unity and solidarity in this country," she wrote.

The eight vetted candidates of the Guardian Council are Saeed Jalili, Hassan Rouhani, Gholamali Haddad Adel, Mohammad Reza Aref, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Mohammad Gharazi, Mohsen Rezaei and Ali Akbar Velayati.

The remarks from the late ayatollah's daughter about preventing the supreme leader from turning into a dictator point out that from among the eight said candidates, Velayati is a top advisor for the supreme leader, Haddad Adel is his son's father-in-law, Saeed Jalili and Hassan Rouhani are his appointees to the Supreme National Security Council, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is his former appointed police chief and the current mayor of Tehran and Mohammad Gharazi is a figure close to him.

Before the announcement of the names of the vetted candidates, Guardian Council's spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaee said that the council would not approve the qualifications of individuals who are unable to work more than a few hours per day, a reference to Rafsanjani's old age. The age reference comes when Iran's supreme leader himself is currently 73, Guardian Council Chairman Ahmad Jannati is 87 and Mohammad Yazdi, one of the Guardian Council's other members, is 81.

Mostafavi is one of Ayatollah Khomeini's three daughters and the general secretary of the Women's Organization of the Islamic Republic. This organization supported the reformist president Mohammad Khatami during his landslide election victory in 1997.

The letter from the daughter of Ayatollah Khomeini is indicative of a very deep rift among the top echelon of power in Iran. It puts Ayatollah Khamenei and other conservatives in a very difficult position, as they take pride in safeguarding the values, words and ideals of Ayatollah Khomeini, and consider themselves the guardians of the revolution.

Under such circumstances, the Guardian Council's contradiction and rejection of Rafsanjani, the man whom the late supreme leader of Iran wished to see as Iran's next leader, would be an act of confrontation and contradiction of the ideas of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Omid Memarian regularly contributes to the Daily Beast and has published op-ed pieces in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle and A World Peace Fellow at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism from 2007-2009, he received Human Rights Watch's highest honor in 2005, the Human Rights Defender Award. He can be reached at On Twitter: @Omid_M

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