Ayatollah Abolghassem Khazali is an insider. He is a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts, the body that is tasked with monitoring the work of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Khazali is full of praise for Khamenei, who he says has preserved the Islamic Revolution with the help of God.
Khazali's son Mehdi is an opposition activist, a blogger, and a staunch critic of the Islamic establishment.
Mehdi, an ophthalmologist, has been arrested several times over the past few years. He's reportedly been in jail for the last 40 days, held in a tiny cell with almost no access to the outside world. Earlier this year, Mehdi was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison and 10 years in exile on charges that included acting against Iran’s national security.
Father and son have vastly different worldviews.
Mehdi has criticized human rights abuses and repression in the Islamic republic and has said that Khamenei has allowed himself to be surrounded by flatterers and servile individuals. He has accused his father of supporting a group of “corrupt liars.”
Khazali has said in an interview that he kicked his son out of his house when he visited recently.
“I told [my wife] not to greet him,” he said in an interview in the latest issue of “Pasdar-e Islam.” He added that his son is a “deviant” and that he prays for him to be “guided” on the right path.
“Wasn’t Imam Hadi [10th imam of the Shi’ites] from the pure dynasty of the [Prophet Muhammad]? His son turned out to be a liar. Wasn’t Noah pure? His son turned out that way. Nor am I higher than holy personalities; nor my son is necessarily worse than their sons, despite that I now have no more contact with him.”
The case is not unique.
In the past 30 years, there have been several other cases of senior clerics and politicians loyal to the Islamic establishment whose children did not share the same enthusiasm.
In his 2005 memoirs, Gholam Reza Hassani, the leader of Friday Prayers in Orumyeh, described how he helped authorities arrest his son Rashid in the 1980s. Rashid, a member of the leftist Fedayin Khalq organization, was executed shortly after his arrest.
Hassani wrote that he wasn’t saddened when he heard the news of Rashid’s execution because he felt he had carried out his duty.
“When it comes to the Islamic Revolution, I will never balk at my duties, even if it comes to my son,” he said.
The relationship between Mohsen Rezaei, the secretary-general of the Expediency Council, and his eldest son Ahmad was also volatile. Ahmad publicly criticized his father and the Islamic establishment after he moved to the United States in 1998. He later returned to Iran. He was found dead in a hotel in Dubai last year.
The son of Rezaei’s adviser, Abdolhossein Ruholamini, was among the protesters killed in the 2009 crackdown that followed the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
Twenty-five-year-old Mohsen Ruholamini reportedly died after being severely beaten at the Kahrizak detention center, which was later closed on the orders of Khamenei. His father, a senior health official, has said that he will fight for justice for his son, whom he described as being kind and honest but stubborn.
Many have blamed Khamenei for the 2009 deaths of opposition protesters. Not Ruholamini, who despite the tragic death of his son seems to remain committed to the Islamic establishment.
“We will survive this very hard tragedy because we trust the system," he said in a 2009 interview with Iran’s English-language Press TV.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari