Iran: Cleric's Protest Walk Ends in Jail

An Iranian cleric named Ali Reza Jahanshahi was arrested about two weeks ago, shortly after beginning a 960 kilometer (590 miles) protest walk from the southern Iranian city, Sirjan to Tehran. The cleric was protesting corrupt land appropriation in Sirjan, and complained the government was not doing enough to stop it. Jahnashahi was arrested after walking about 30 kilometers near the city Abadeh.


Jahnashahi depicted above, along with an Islamic Hadith quote saying is it is the responsibility of clerics to defend the oppressed.

Several conservative Iranian and pro-Islamic Republic bloggers have declared their support for his protest, and have called on authorities to release him. Many other Islamic students and clerics have also demonstrated for his freedom. Many of these bloggers and students are members of the Association of Justice Seekers’ Students, a conservative and Islamist group that has criticized the Iranian authorities for their lack of action against corruption.

Meanwhile, the news of the cleric's detention has scarcely been covered by secular or reformist bloggers. It helps demonstrate how polarized the Iranian blogosphere is.

Blogger Mostazafin (means ‘oppressed’ in Persian), who has followed the news of Jahnashahi protest closely, has published [Fa] several photos of the cleric, and says that 18 university student magazines published a declaration to defend his revolutionary protest walk.

He quotes from the declaration:

“In Sirjan we witnessed how power circles and capitalists illegally took control of many properties that belong to the Iranian people… People who acted against Islamic Republic law and Islam.”

Mostazifin says of Jahnashahi's campaign:

“For two years he tried to attract the Iranian authorities’ attention to enormous financial corruption, but nobody paid any attention… What happened in Sirjan is just an example of what is going on across Iran.”

Markazinews writes that six security agents arrested Jahanshahi while he was in a mosque and forced him into a car. Reportedly, he was arrested because his actions are against the statute of clerics.

Markazinews has quoted from a statement of the Justice Seekers’ Students, that recalls that the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the former Leader of Islamic Republic of Iran, said clerics should not forget the poor and barefooted people… The statement says they will not tolerate the authorities’ shortcomings, and will strive to accomplish their revolutionary duties.

Bignaehstiz has published a badge to support the cleric that reads, “In the fight against the corrupt of Sirjan, we are with Jahanshahi.” The blogger adds that some students and clerics supported his action and walked with him part of the way to protest against corruption.

Kashmar criticized the Special Cleric Court that ordered the arrest and detention of Jahanshahi, and asks why they do not act against the corrupt clerics instead.

The Muslim Bloggers Association also published a badge that says corrupt clerics should be arrested instead of the protesting cleric from Sirjani.

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