The Iranian Student Who Came In From The Cold

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was at a meeting with Iranian scientists when he posed a simple question of the audience asking if anyone wanted to pose a question to him. Mahmoud Vahidnia, a young math student, tried to speak but was pushed down. The Ayatollah signaled to officials to allow the young man to speak. First, Mahmoud denounced the media for its biased reporting of demonstrations following the flawed presidential election. However, he went on to criticize the Ayatollah which may constitute about the first time this has happened in decades. “I don’t know why in this country, it’s not allowed to make any kind of criticism of you. In the past tree to five yeas that I have been reading newspapers, I have seen no criticism of you, not even by the assembly of experts(a clerical body with the theoretical power to fire the leader). I feel that if this doesn’t happen this situation will lead to discord and grudge.” But, he did not halt at the point, but went on to ask: “wouldn’t our system have a better chance of preserving itself if we were using more satisfactory methods and limited use of violence only to essential circumstances?”

Some are arguing allowing the student to make these remarks was simply a strategy to show the outside world there was freedom of speech in Iran. We can only wait and see if the Ayatollah is a thin or thick skinned leader.