Holding Iran’s Supreme Leader Accountable
By Reza Pahlavi
The subject of Iran currently sits quite prominently at the forefront
of foreign policy discussions. 80% of all media coverage of Iran today
focuses on the covert nuclear program. The remaining 20% focuses on
provocative words and actions of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His
actions might make for good television, and Iran's nuclear program might
make for the stuff of brinksmanship, but the present discussion about
Iran fails to focus on the root of the country's plaguing problem: the
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
In late January, I submitted a report to the United Nations Security
Council detailing the crimes against humanity perpetrated on the orders
of Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Mr. Ali Khamenei. The report
focuses on crimes against humanity committed during the suppression of
popular dissent after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fraudulent re-election in
June 2009. It also addresses various acts of Human Rights violations
against ethnic communities and religious minorities since the clerical
Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Western nations have alternated
between trying to isolate Iran or to engage Iran diplomatically. It
makes no difference: the clerics ruling Iran -- Ali Khamenei, in
particular -- have no real interest in engagement with the West, nor
have they ever. In fact, animosity with the West -- for all the values
it represents -- is the underlying premise on which the Islamic Republic
of Iran was founded. This would ultimately explain why reasoning with
them has been futile: the lack of a common sphere of rationality.
The failing diplomacy seems to have led certain voices in the West to
turn bellicose, and what were once whispers of war against my homeland
are now growing louder. This concerns me for three reasons. First,
because I am categorically opposed to any attack on my homeland due to
the fact that it is not a viable solution, neither for stopping the
nuclear program nor for the peace and the stability in the region;
second, because Iran's armed forces will be forced into a position of
defense and will be lost as potential allies to our democratic movement;
and third, because the West has overlooked the most important tool to
pressure the regime: the empowerment of the Iranian people.
I have steadfastly stated in interviews and speeches that the best
insurance against nuclear proliferation and securing regional peace
would be to help Iranians establish a secular democracy. There has yet
to be serious effort to engage the overwhelming majority of Iranians who
oppose this regime, and render them assistance to rise and take back
their land from their oppressors.
The chief culprit behind all the evil that occurs within and emanates
from Iran is Ali Khamenei in his role as Supreme Leader with nearly
absolute power. A comprehensive study of the Iranian power structure and
its constitution makes it clear that President Ahmadinejad is nothing
more than a marionette in a corrupt puppet show run entirely by Ali
Based on religious law, the constitution of the Islamic Republic
gives virtually all political, military and economic power to the
Supreme Leader, at the top of the regime's hierarchy. The powers
Khamenei holds give him the ability to control and intervene without
limitation in all aspects of the public and private life of Iranians.
Numerous protestors arrested during the post-election protests in
2009 were brought before the Islamic Republic's revolutionary courts and
judged for having committed the crime of "Moharebeh," which means "war
against God." This charge can be made for any act that goes against the
interests of the Islamic Republic. There is in fact no statutory
definition of the crime of Moharebeh. It is a powerful tool that allows
the regime to accuse any person and to condemn anyone with any sentence,
including the death penalty.
The charge of Moharebeh was used against numerous protestors arrested
during post-election demonstrations of 2009. Their arrests, which for
the most part took place when they were participating in peaceful
demonstrations, subsequently led to them being brought before the courts
and receiving severe sentences.
In his Friday prayer sermon of 19 June 2009, Ali Khamenei confirmed
the decision of the Islamic Republic to blindly and violently repress
any person opposing the results of the presidential election of 12 June
2009. Security forces, invigorated by the Supreme Leader's address,
dressed in civilian clothing to infiltrate the peaceful protesters and
attacked them with guns, blades and knives. The image of Neda
Agha-Soltan, the young woman who was shot in cold blood by a sniper,
remains etched in our collective memories. Sadly, Neda was just one of
many who died for freedom in Iran.
For Neda, and for all those who have been killed, abused, raped,
terrorized and sentenced in sham trials, not only since the protests of
the summer of 2009, but for the entire existence of this regime in my
homeland, I accuse Ali Khamenei of crimes against humanity. The record
is clear and chilling; his orders and the actions that his forces have
taken as a result of those orders clearly meet the definitions of crimes
against humanity as defined by the Article 7 of the Rome Statute which
established the International Criminal Court.
The evidence in the report I filed with the United Nations Security
Council provides sufficient cause for the United Nations Security
Council to take up this matter and refer it quickly to the Chief
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. These
crimes include murder, torture, rape and other sexual violence,
disappearance of persons, persecution of political, religious, and
ethnic groups; and denial of liberty. It is time to bring Ali Khamenei
to justice for his crimes against humanity.
It is my sincere hope that whatever political motivations have
previously guided nations in the past vis-à-vis Iran, they will do what
is clearly right and side with the people of Iran by voting to refer
this case to the International Criminal Court at once. Those of us
fighting for a free Iran will remember our friends that helped us in our
time of need.
Under the tyranny of Ali Khamenei, Iranians cannot currently speak
freely for themselves. We can be the voice for freedom and justice by
pushing for unanimous passage of this complaint in the UN Security
Council and try Ali Khamenei before the International Criminal Court.
The international community will send a strong signal of solidarity with
the Iranian people.
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