Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used his English-language Twitter account on Wednesday to declare, “If the U.S. has any power, they better manage their country, tackle white supremacy rather than meddle in nations’ affairs.”
Khamenei linked this comment to the Twitter hashtags for #WhiteSupremacy and #Charlottesville. He included a photo of indeterminate origin showing a younger version of himself holding a black child, which is presumably supposed to demonstrate his superior racial sensitivity:
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) August 16, 2017
To its credit, the Washington Post was sharply skeptical of the tweet, noting that Khamenei routinely seeks to exploit American crimes and tragedies for political advantage. The Post also notes that Iran has absolutely no room to lecture anyone else about sensitivity, highlighting the brutality of Iranian police and the imprisonment of Iranian women for public speeches in favor of equal rights.
Twitter users were equally tough on Khamenei, highlighting Iranian racism towards its own minority populations. Iran is particularly vicious toward its Baha’i, the largest non-Muslim minority in the country.
Foreign Affairs noted in May:
From the Iranian revolution in 1979 to this day, the regime has shown the Baha’i no mercy. The Iranian Baha’i community has faced continued oppression on the economic front and in the denial of educational opportunities. Last November, Iranian authorities shut down more than 100 Baha’i-owned businesses throughout Iran after those businesses were briefly shuttered by their owners to observe the Baha’i holidays. In December and January alone, more than a dozen Baha’i students were kicked out of Iranian universities because of their faith.
The reason Foreign Affairs ran that article in May is that May 14 was the ninth anniversary of Iran throwing the entire Baha’i leadership council in jail for 20 years, to be followed soon thereafter by their secretary. Iran’s Intelligence Ministry arrests Baha’i people on a regular basis. As of May, there were 80 to 90 of them in prison for their religious beliefs.
CNN noted that Khamenei is an “on-the-record Holocaust denier” but still tossed him into their roundup of officials from other countries who were critical of President Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
Khamenei actually observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day by posting a three-minute Holocaust denial video, which quoted a speech in which he said:
No one in European countries dares to speak about the Holocaust, while it is not clear whether the core of this matter is reality or not. Even if it is reality, it is not clear how it happened. Speaking about the Holocaust and expressing doubts about it is considered to be a great sin. If someone does this, they stop, arrest, imprison and sue him. This is while they claim to be the supporters of freedom.
Human Rights Watch notes Iran spent the last few years “recruiting” undocumented Afghan immigrants and shipping them off to fight as Tehran’s proxies in Syria. Some of the “recruits” reported they were coerced to fight; those who refused were deported back to Afghanistan. Conscription of non-citizens is technically illegal under Iranian law. It was hardly the first time immigrants from Afghanistan have been abused and exploited by Tehran.
Of course, religious bigotry is deeply ingrained in Iranian law. The highest religious court in the country, the Guardian Council, conveniently determined that Islamic law prohibits non-Muslims from running for office in Muslim-majority districts, about a week before the last round of elections. Religious minorities who are not officially “recognized” by the Iranian government (notably including the Baha’i) are not allowed to run for office at all.
On one of the previous occasions when Khamenei sought to exploit racial unrest in the United States for political advantage, Michael Rubin at Commentary called Iran “among the world’s most racist and religiously intolerant countries.” He took particular aim at Iran’s attitude toward black people:
When President Obama won election in November 2008—like Obama or dislike him, it was surely a historic day in American history—the Iranian press (and al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) both dismissed Obama as a “house slave.”
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ weekly Sobh-e Sadegh editorial discussing Obama’s election was entitled, “A Dark Person Rises to Remove Darkness From America,” but then continued to condemn the president for appointing a Jew as his chief-of-staff.
Jomhuri-ye Eslami dismissed Obama as merely “a black immigrant.”
It is going to take more than a few old photos of Khamenei holding babies to cover up that degree of racial and religious bigotry.