Iran’s top Sunni cleric, Mowlavi Abdolhamid, has dismissed accusations made by regime media as a smear campaign designed to justify the crackdown on the Sunni minority. Abdolhamid, Friday prayer leader of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province, denounced the Revolutionary Guard-affiliated Fars news agency’s claims about the Makki Jameh Mosque of Zahedan during his sermon. The mosque has been a focal point for anti-regime demonstrations since the inception of the Women, Life, Freedom movement last year.
Fars, citing an unnamed source, reported that officials at the Makki Mosque had imported 80 mining computers with the assistance of foreign elements, engaging in cryptocurrency mining. The agency also alleged that two shipments of communication devices and Starlink satellite internet kits, sent by the US National Security Agency to Abdolhamid’s office, were intercepted, leading to the arrest of five individuals involved in facilitating the transfer. However, no evidence has been provided to substantiate these claims, and no security or intelligence agency has echoed or confirmed the allegations.
Abdolhamid rebuked media outlets affiliated with the government and influential bodies for straying from the truth and resorting to lies and accusations against critics, opponents, justice advocates, and proponents of legitimate freedoms. He emphasized the importance of free media as a means of reflecting reality and called for the authorities to listen to the opinions and criticisms of the people, rather than suppressing them.
Abdolhamid has been a prominent voice for moderation and justice since the uprising against the regime in September 2022, following the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody. He has been critical of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his absolute authority. Due to his advocacy for minority rights, particularly for the heavily persecuted Sunni minority in Iran, Abdolhamid has become a target of the regime. The presence of military forces and heightened security measures around the Makki Mosque in Zahedan has been reported by human rights media outlet Haalvsh. The regime has blocked roads and streets leading to the mosque, implemented checkpoints, and conducted physical inspections of individuals attending Friday prayers.
Every week, following the prayers, citizens peacefully demonstrate as they leave the mosque. These protests have been ongoing since the security forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators on September 30, 2022, resulting in nearly 100 deaths, a tragic event known as the Bloody Friday of Zahedan.