“Does Mr. Rouhani know what his Intelligence Ministry is up to?”
Within the course of the same week, two Sunni Muslim politicians were warned by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry to stop advocating for Sunni Muslims rights, especially the inclusion of Sunnis in the president’s cabinet, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
Hasel Daseh, a Kurdish Sunni former member of Iran’s Parliament and deputy campaign manager for President Hassan Rouhani in West Azerbaijan Province, was pressured by agents of the Intelligence Ministry on November 11, 2017, at Laleh International Hotel in Tehran to halt his peaceful advocacy efforts.
Three days earlier, on November 8 and at the same hotel, Rouhani’s chief campaign manager in Kurdistan Province, Jalal Jalalizadeh, also a Kurdish Sunni former MP, had the same experience.
“We can’t believe that agents working for Mr. Hassan Rouhani’s Intelligence Ministry would summon one of his deputy election campaign managers and tell him that he has no brains and should stop following up on the people’s demands,” a source close to Daseh told CHRI on November 19.
“They thanked Mr. Daseh for encouraging people to go to the polls during the election, but said now it’s time to go home; don’t go asking about the people’s demands,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“Mr. Daseh and other Kurdish activists canvased for Mr. Rouhani and collected votes for him,” said the source. “Does Mr. Rouhani know what his Intelligence Ministry is up to? Following up on the people’s demands is important. People make phone calls to their politicians to tell them their problems and expect them to do something about it.”
Daseh and Jalalizadeh are members of a committee formed to follow up on their demand to include Sunni Muslims in government. The Intelligence Ministry has demanded the committee be disbanded.
“The Intelligence Ministry is behaving this way because they want to sideline Kurdish politicians who have credibility among the people and to make their demands go away,” the source close to Daseh told CHRI. “They want to push them aside with insults and threats.”
The source added: “It was 16 years ago when Mr. Daseh was a member of Parliament and he still gets phone calls from people when he goes to Tehran and they want him to solve their problems. Then the Intelligence Ministry summons him and tells him to go home and tell the people that he’s a nobody. That’s what he gets after all that hard work.”
According to the source, the former MPs have written a letter to President Rouhani urging him to hold the Intelligence Ministry, which operates under him, accountable for its actions.
“The way they were treated was so ugly and offensive that Mr. Daseh and Mr. Jalalizadeh wrote a joint letter to Mr. Rouhani and demanded an investigation,” said the source. “We don’t know if Mr. Rouhani has knowledge of these actions, but Mr. Daseh and Mr. Jalalizadeh are expecting an answer.”
After reports surfaced about the Intelligence Ministry’s threats against Jalalizadeh, Daseh wrote the following on his Facebook page on November 9, 2017, in a post that was subsequently deleted:
“After eight years in school [university] and 18 years of political activity, yesterday I learned it is a crime to invite people to participate in elections! Yesterday, Dr. Jalalizadeh, Rouhani’s chief campaign manager in Kurdistan, university professor, politician, the son of a martyr, the brother of a martyr, an injured war veteran… was asked an important question he could not answer: Why did you participate in the elections and encourage people to vote? We have to find an answer to that question before we can ask why Mr. Rouhani has not honored any of his pledges.”
According to Article 12 of Iran’s Constitution, officially recognized Sunni branches of Islam, “including the Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanbali, and Zaydi are to be accorded full respect, and their followers are free to act in accordance with their own jurisprudence in performing their religious rites. These schools enjoy official status in matters pertaining to religious education, affairs of personal status (marriage, divorce, inheritance, and wills) and related litigation in courts of law.”
Iran is 90 percent Shia Muslim. According to Jalalizadeh, a quarter of the 23.6 million people who voted for Rouhani in the May 19, 2017, presidential election were Sunni. Despite the overwhelming support Rouhani received from this segment of the population, he has refused to appoint a Sunni Muslim to his cabinet.