A sister of Iran’s supreme leader has condemned the crackdown on protesters in Iran and called on the Revolutionary Guard to stand down, according to a letter published by her son in France.
In a letter dated December 2022, Badri Hosseini Khamenei, who lives in Iran, went on to criticize the clerical establishment of the Islamic Republic from its founding to the present.
"I think it is appropriate now to declare that I oppose my brother's actions and I express my sympathy with all mothers mourning the crimes of the Islamic Republic, from the time of Khomeini to the current era of the despotic caliphate of Ali Khamenei," she wrote in the letter that her son, Mahmoud Moradkhani, shared Wednesday on Twitter.
"I hope that my mother's words will break the silence of the clerics who oppose [the Islamic Republic]," France-based Moradkhani stated in an exclusive interview with VOA Persian on December 7.
In her letter, Badri Khamenei urged the Revolutionary Guard to "lay down their weapons" and "join the people before it is too late."
Earlier Wednesday, student protesters were in the streets across Iran as part of a wave of civil unrest triggered by the September death of an Iranian Kurdish woman who had been detained by the country’s morality police.
VOA’s Persian Service cited reports that protests took place around at least 20 universities where security and plainclothes forces clashed with students.
Government forces in Mashhad reportedly attacked students with "sticks and tasers."
Iran was already on Day 3 of a strike called by protesters. They had called for shop owners across the country to close their businesses through Wednesday in an effort to bring about government reform. Witnesses said large numbers of businesses were shut down Tuesday across the country.
Iran's judiciary chief, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, ordered the arrest of anyone encouraging shopkeepers to close their businesses.
The strike came as confusion swirled over the status of Iran’s morality police, which enforces strict codes on women's dress.
The semi-official news agency ISNA quoted Iran’s chief prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, in a Saturday report as saying the morality police "had been closed."
Activists, however, voiced doubt that such actions were being taken. By late Sunday, state outlet Al-Alam issued a report saying the judiciary in which Montazeri belongs does not oversee the morality police.
Government officials have not publicly commented on the matter.
The Associated Press reports that fewer morality police officers have been seen in Iranian cities in recent weeks and notes it has become more common to see women walking in public places without wearing a hijab.
Iran's anti-government demonstrations began after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was detained by the morality police for not wearing her hijab properly. Her death in police custody led to a wave of protests, during which rights groups say at least 471 people have been killed.
VOA's Persian Service contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.