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Iranian Ayatollah: OWS A Sign Of The 12th Imam

Occupy Wall Street protesters march on Broadway in October. According to at least one Iranian cleric, their movement is a sign of the impending return of a Shi'ite messiah, the Hidden Imam.
Most Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters would probably tell you that they're out to change the world, or at least the United States' marginal tax rates on high earners.

But most of them -- one hopes -- probably wouldn't profess to having any interest in hastening the reappearance of a religious messiah and ushering in a global, cataclysmic Day of Judgment.

Don't tell all of this to Iranian Ayatollah Mohsen Heydari. He's convinced that the OWS protests are the self-evident harbinger of a long-awaited event in Shi'ite eschatology: the reappearance of the 12th (Hidden) Imam, whose End of Times return will bring Islamic peace and justice to the world.

"The Occupy Wall Street movement is the big step to prepare the ground for the appearance of the 12th Imam," Heydari told mosque congregants in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, the capital of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, on November 7.

The remarks came during a special prayer service for the celebration of Eid al-Adha, a major religious holiday that ends on November 9.

Talk about the imminent arrival of the 12th Imam is a perennial feature of political and religious discourse in post-revolutionary Iran. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad famously expressed his wish that God would "hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace," during a speech to the UN General Assembly in 2005.

Lately, Occupy Wall Street appears to have captured the imaginations of many within the Iranian regime.

RFE/RL's Golnaz Esfandiari has reported on the efforts of the leaders of the notorious Basij militia (who led the violent crackdown on peaceful antigovernment demonstrators in 2009) to provide Persian-language and English-language coverage of the OWS protests -- a bitter irony that seems sadly lost on the Basij.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei weighed in on the OWS protests in October. "They may crack down on this movement but cannot uproot it," Khamenei told a Friday Prayer congregation. "Ultimately, it will grow so that it will bring down the capitalist system and the West."

With talk like that, it was perhaps inevitable that regime figures would begin to draw a few lines connecting the ragtag 21st-century protesters camped in Zuccotti Park with the prophecied return of a ninth-century religious leader.

No word yet from the Hidden Imam about his position on corporate tax rates.

-- Charles Dameron

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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