Khamenei And The Student

world | Oct 30, 2009 | By RFE/RL 

Several Iranian websites, including the official site of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have published details of an unusual encounter between Khamenei and a student who publicly criticized the Iranian establishment.

The encounter took place in an October 28 meeting between Khamenei and students in Tehran, during which the supreme leader said that questioning the disputed June 12 vote was the "biggest crime."

According to the reports, a student from Sharif University, named by some websites as Mahmud Vahidnia, criticized the Iranian leader, state broadcast media, the postelection crackdown, and the closure of the reformist press -- for a whole 20 minutes.

The student reportedly told Khamenei that he had never seen criticism of Khamenei in the Iranian press. He said those surrounding Khamenei have turned him into “an idol.”

He then went on to accuse state media of biased reporting and giving a false picture of postelection events. He added that since the supreme leader appoints the head of state broadcast media, he is responsible for its content and biased coverage.

On a roll, the unnamed student then criticized “the cycle of power” in Iran, including the conservative Guardians Council and the Assembly of Experts.

According to Khamenei’s website, the Iranian leader reacted by saying that he welcomes criticism and knows that there is a lot of it.

And Khamenei too is not always happy with state television programming. “Don’t assume that because I appoint the head of state television, they bring all their programs to me for approval,” the Iranian leader said.

The Mowj website, which focuses on news from the green opposition movement, reported that some of the participants encouraged the student, but then the cameras were shut down for a few minutes.

In the Islamic Republic, criticizing the supreme leader is considered a red line that few people are willing to cross publically. A number of those who have done so have ended up in prison.

Mowj reported that the student was pressured by security forces present at the meeting.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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