As part of efforts to put pressure on Iran’s outspoken Sunni leader Mowlavi Abdolhamid, the government has arrested several people from his inner circle.

According to local sources close to the prominent Sunni cleric, among those arrested is Abdol-Nasir Shahbakhsh, his grandson whom security agents arrested “violently” on the street and took him to an unknown location.

Shahbaksh works for the Makki Mosque, where Abdolhamid delivers his speeches. He was recently summoned by interrogated by the intelligence ministry in Zahedan, a Baluch-majority city and capital of southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province.

The Makki mosque in Zahedan has been a center of resistance to the government since popular protests began in September 2022. This is where Abdolhamid delivers his weekly sermons, openly criticizing the regime headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Haalvsh website, which covers developments in Sistan-Baluchestan, said that two other people who were arrested on Tuesday were cameramen of the mosque, identifying them as Osameh Shahbakhsh and Hamed Mohammadi-Nik.

Security agents also raided Osameh Shahbakhsh’s home, assaulted members of his family and confiscated his electronic devices.

On Saturday, June 24, a member of the mosque’s security personnel, Abdolvahed Shahlibar, was also summoned by the judiciary and was arrested afterwards.

Shir-Ahmad Shirani, the chief editor of Haalvsh, told Radio Farda that the arrests seem to be the regime’s reactions to the news of a botched assassination attempt against Abdolhamid. He added that several other people have been called in by the authorities or arrested over the publication of the report.

The arrests came a few days after reports surfaced that the Revolutionary Guard’s intelligence arm had assigned a hitman to poison and kill the vocal Sunni cleric of Zahedan. The security guards at Makki Mosque arrested a man pretending to be a religious student who allegedly wanted to assassinate the Sunni leader.

According to the report, the suspect admitted that he received a salary of 150 million rials ($300) per week since the beginning of his operation.

Officially known as Sheikh Abdolhamdid Esmailzehi, the Sunni cleric is widely popular because of his willingness to challenge Khamenei’s absolute authority. In addition, the country’s Sunni minority are heavily persecuted and the cleric has long been an advocate of minority rights, to the ire of the regime.

The prominent religious leader has been relentless, making fiery speeches against the heavy crackdown and killing of protesters, and calling government actions “felony”.

In November, the outspoken Sunni Imam said women, ethnic and religious groups, and minorities have faced discrimination after the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. He also called for an internationally monitored referendum in Iran, arguing that by killing and repression the government cannot push back a nation.

Abdolhamid also said earlier that officials should not be clerics, noting that not all Iranian people are “religious” and as such do not accept religious authority.

Last Friday, June 23, was the 38th consecutive week that people of the province held demonstrations against the government following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini in September, but the rallies were significantly larger following calls for protests by Sunni clerics and activist groups as the regime seems to have intensified its campaign against their religious leader Mowlavi Abdolhamid.

On Sunday, local media revealed the identities of at least 14 Baluch citizens arrested by the security forces, including four children.

Earlier in the month, the office of the outspoken Sunni leader of Sistan and Baluchestan province said the Ministry of Intelligence prevented him from attending Hajj pilgrimage.

Source » iranintl