"Islamic compassion" is a term that's often used by Iranian officials to demonstrate that they are merciful, even to those who in their eyes don't really deserve it.
For example, when a number of political prisoners were released last month, authorities said they had been accorded "Islamic compassion."
Now, of course, some might ask where that "Islamic compassion" was when the decision was made to jail those activists solely for criticizing the Islamic establishment and its poor human-rights record.
It seems that according to Iranian authorities, Islamic compassion can only be granted after some degree of punishment -- or after convicted individuals express regret and repent for "crimes."
At Tehran's Friday Prayers on November 22, senior Ayatollah Jannati referred to "Islamic compassion" while talking about the leaders of "sedition" -- a reference to opposition figures Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, who have been under house arrest for more than a thousand days.
Jannati said: "If it wasn't for Islamic compassion, they would have been executed."
Jannati said the opposition leaders, who have publicly challenged Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and criticized Tehran's human-rights abuses, are indebted to the Islamic Republic for allowing them to remain "alive" in their homes.
Jannati, who heads the Assembly of Experts, said the two men still have access to facilities and can take care of their own hygiene.
Relatives of the opposition leaders say they are held under difficult conditions, tightly controlled and isolated, and that their health has been deteriorating.
Jannati said the two men currently are not ready "to repent." This would appear to suggest that, in the opinion of Iran's leaders at least, the opposition figures don't deserve any more "Islamic compassion" and freedom anytime soon.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari