May 5, 2023
Iranian Sunni Cleric Questions Nuclear Program’s “Value” Amid Increasing Poverty
Iran's most prominent Sunni cleric again used his Friday sermon to criticize the Islamic Republic’s policies, saying that the intensifying economic crisis has impoverished many Iranians.
"You have missed all opportunities to solve the nuclear crisis and have failed to address the issue of sanctions," Molavi Abdulhamid, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of the south-eastern city of Zahedan, said on May 5.
"One must question the value of the nuclear program, which has led the country to this point," Molavi said.
He added that members of the Islamic Republic’s elite, who “sold the sanctioned oil while the nation suffered," are the only ones to benefit from the sanctions.
The 76-year-old cleric said that even members of the military forces and government employees are now struggling to make ends meet with "a meager monthly income of 10 million toman, equivalent to around $200."
He also expressed skepticism about the government’s plan to sell off state-owned assets to cover revenue shortfall.
After prayers, Zahedan residents took to the streets for weekly protests and shouted slogans against the Islamic Republic and its leader, Ali Khamenei.
Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan, home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people.
Molavi has been a key dissenting voice inside Iran since the eruption of nationwide protests in September 2022 demanding fundamental economic, social and political changes.
Iranian authorities have cracked down hard on the women-led protest movement, killing more than 520 people during demonstrations and unlawfully detaining over 20,000, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
Zahedan residents have been holding protest rallies every Friday since September 30, when security forces killed nearly 100 people, in the deadliest incident in the widespread demonstrations triggered by the September 2022 death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody.