The cost of calling for the separation of mosque and state in Iran — even if you’re a mullah

Since visiting Iran in 2004 to secretly meet with former political prisoners who had been jailed with Canadian Zahra Kazemi – who was murdered in custody – I’ve written several times about Iran’s democratic dissidents.

Most whom I’ve discussed, however, tend to be young and secular. These are the kinds of people I met in Iran, and who are more likely to get in touch with an English-speaking foreign journalist.

But opposition to Iran’s theocracy is diverse and extends beyond university campuses. The example of Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi is a case in point. The cleric supports the separation of religion and government. Iranians, he said, “are opposed to the politicization of religion and its exploitation by a group that has nothing to do with true Islam. Islam is the religion of tolerance, forbearance, and mercy, to the point where [the Koran] emphasized to us that ‘there is no compulsion in religion.’”

Boroujerdi, along with scores of his supporters, was arrested moments after making those remarks to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper in October 2006. He’s been in jail since. While Iranian judicial authorities have released little or no information about Boroujerdi’s condition, Iranian human rights groups say he is in poor health. He has reportedly been recently transferred to a prison in Yazd, far from his family.

I was alerted to Boroujerdi’s continued incarceration by Potkin Azarmehr, whose blog, while it appears to be down today, is well worth reading. 

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