Truth To Power, In Person


The Newest Deal relays a riveting story:

In a stunning move, Mahmoud Vahidnia (pictured right), a student from the prestigious Sharif university and winner of the International Math Olympics, directly confronted Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during the question-and-answer portion of a conference that was being held [last Wednesday]. When Khamenei asked if the audience had any questions, Vahidnia stood up and answered, "Yes, I have some words with you.”

What followed was a 20 minute critique of both Khamenei and the Islamic Republic, coupled with interruptions by some of the Basij students supportive of the regime. Vahidnia criticized the propagandist nature of state media, the security climate stifling the country, censorship of the free press, the power structure of the Islamic Republic, and the very inability to criticize the Supreme Leader himself.

Persian2English provides a summarized translation of the encounter:

“Why can’t anyone in this country criticize you? Isn’t that ignorant? Do you think that you make no mistakes? Why have they made an idol out of you that is so unreachable and that nobody can challenge? I have never read an article about your performance in any newspaper because you have shut down all the media that is against you in the country. Why does national TV show all the events untruthfully? For example all the events after the election: why do you support them [national TV shows], when everyone knows they are lying? Since the president of national television is directly selected by you, you are thus responsible for all this.”

Khamenei dodged the questions and instead called Vahidnia dishonest. He claimed that he receives (and is receptive to) criticism every day, and that he always adjusts his behavior to account for errors. Soon thereafter, Khamenei departed behind a curtain before first receiving praise from a Basiji student in attendance. The prayer that Khamenei was scheduled to lead at the end of the ceremony did not occur amid his hasty departure. Vahidnia was reportedly detained by security officials soon after the event.

The dean of the university later claimed that Khamenei had given the student permission to speak out. According to Mowjcamp, the student was arrested.