The following is a translation of highlights of Grand Ayatollah Youssef Saanei's speech, delivered on Wednesday August 12 and released on August 17.
Youssef Saanei is one of about 30 grand ayatollahs worldwide (about 20 in Iran) and enjoys particular respect and popularity. Saanei is a 'source of emulation' for millions of followers. Many of his ex-students are now ayatollahs or senior regime officials. At times mocking or scathing, Saanei critiqued the government in Gorgan on August 12.
The first part of the speech can be viewed here. The rest is on the same YouTube channel.
Grand Ayatollah Youssef Saanei:
I was born in 1937. This is the first year in my life that I have not read the Rajab and Shaban prayers in an official capacity. This has never happened to me despite all the upheavals, arrests, and deaths I have seen in my life. This is an indication of the pressures we are experiencing in this day and age.Today, a number of Imam Khomeini's companions are in prison, accused of trying to overthrow the regime. Is this credible? I don't want to name these dear individuals one by one...
I have known Mr. Mousavi and his family for 25 years. Is it credible to say that he wanted to overthrow the regime? That he wanted to have the people's blood flow in the streets? That he wanted to damage stores or people's property? That he wanted people's hearts to be targeted from the rooftops? In terms of faith and loyalty, Mousavi is rare, if not unique.
The confessions of an individual isolated from the outside world are not legal in Islam.
These [political prisoners] have no access to newspapers, radios, visitors... I must warn you of some dangers. Young people of Iran, these acts you witness are against the line of the Imam.
I heard one of these [regime supporters] in Mashhad say, "We found some unsuitable books in such and such a place." Who are you to decide what's suitable or unsuitable!? Don't show off your power so much. We've seem many such posers fall from grace and weep openly.
Now everyone is shirking their responsibilities in a comical manner. All those people have been killed and they're saying, "It wasn't my fault, it wasn't my fault." Imam Khomeini said that the legitimacy of the regime is derived from the people's vote. I told one of these officials, "Cancel this election and hold a new vote." He said, "There was no fraud!"
One man says there is no water in this pool and gives 70 reasons. The other says, "I have one proof", and throws him in the pool. Things have reached such a stage that canceling the election won't change anything now.
The more pressure they exert, the more aware the people become and the greater their hatred. I don't understand how it all came to this. They want to destroy the legacy of the Imam. Remember, a prayer for the Imam is a 100 times more powerful than the bullets being fired on the streets by those who are trying to aggrandize themselves by destroying the Imam's legacy.
Saanei later added:
The Islamic government must at least treat in a proper manner those who have toiled for it. That's politics 101. But God appears to have deprived them of their senses. When you can open a knot with your hands, don"t tear at it with your teeth. If a cleric forgets the legacy of the Imam, tell him. And if he continues, then stop listening to him.
And now, on to my second point. We must shun any media outlet that spreads lies. If a newspaper lies, a radio or television station lies, if a preacher lies, then stop listening. I'm talking about media outlets that have sent hundreds to prison and are now proudly parading them in a humiliating manner. With insults and humiliation! Is this Islam? You want to prosecute them, fine. But why the humiliation, why a special outfit?
Is this Islam? Don't believe it. Find out about their innocence, wherever it is spoken, to defend the rights of the people. Find out what they are doing to the people. You may ask, Is this useful?
The first use is to muster hatred. Hatred is dangerous for any government. The more the hatred, the more concessions they must give. Sometimes the hatred is so great, the government has no more concessions to give. They may have given oil, gas, wealth, and then they have nothing left to offer. That's when that evil autocratic government must turn to other methods.
Hatred is very dangerous for governments. Dear ones, do not lose hope, spread awareness. Listening to lying media outlets is against the Koran. They may say, these are Islamic outlets. Islam is not about lies.
On to the third danger. Do not become ideological prisoners! Today the criminals strive to keep people ignorant. They're afraid of the slightest awareness, of one person exchanging information with another. They're even afraid of cemeteries! Is that something to be afraid of? Maybe you can be afraid of cemeteries at night, but in daylight? Are people going to burn stores in cemeteries? People are just praying over the graves of their martyrs, saying, Thank you very much for aiming at his heart. Let them at least pray over the graves of their loved ones. In the old days, they used dead people to vote for them. But to be afraid of dead people? This is new. Know that seldom has anything provoked the hatred of the people as much as what is occurring today.
Here's a story. Someone said, I know this man who socializes with Imam Zaman (NB Shiite Messiah) all the time. (NB Saanei is referring to Ahmadinejad who is notorious for his claims of a special relationship with Imam Zaman.) The friend said, I don't really believe this, but I'll go and meet this man. He went and asked the man, "Do you meet with Imam Zaman?" The man said, "What are you talking about? Of course not." He comes back and tells his friend, "See, I told you so. I asked him and he said he never met Imam Zaman." The other one responds -- the punch line shows that those days of believing tricksters are over and the nation is awake! -- The other one responds, "He sees the Imam Zaman, but he's a lying bastard."
Remember, congregate wherever your goals are being advanced. I remember when as a young seminarian we drove up to Tehran to demonstrate for Khomeini and we were a mere fourteen people. Islam is about going to the source of issues. You must do the same with political matters. Instead of sitting somewhere and being mentally subjugated, think for yourselves!
Read, discuss, disseminate. Everything you see today is smoke and mirrors to bolster the power of a few.
Beware if a nation's everyday concerns are not about its pain. I speak of the pain of prisoners, the captives of today's evil ones. I speak of the pain of those whose weight has withered away and they say jokingly that its because of saunas. I speak of the pain of those whose confessions were obtained under duress, the pain of those who cannot mourn over graves. Why can't they at least release these prisoners on parole during the holy month of Ramadan? Why can't they allow the people to mourn over the graves of their loved ones during the holy month of Ramadan? You who have no children cannot understand the pain of losing a child! And you blithely aim for their hearts! Then you say he caught meningitis or some other disease.
So who's responsible for these contagious diseases? The same people who are in charge of everything else. Islam is about peace. In Islam, it is impossible for one person to impose his view on 60 million people! Unfortunately they don't listen to me, but thank God I'm not an accomplice to even one of their crimes! Thank God I'm not involved in these cases of murder and torture, any one of which is enough to send one to Hell!
Four or so people are supporting these acts, it's not important. The people are the only important thing. The people are everything. Those clerics who oppose the people will meet their just end. The people have given clerics their sustenance throughout history. For 18 years, I preached and taught in various schools to avoid being under the thumb of anyone. (NB Saanei is referring to the huge regime handouts to clerics which many believe have weakened the clergy's independence. In Shiism, senior clerics have traditionally received their livelihoods from their followers and not from governments). I have only followed God, the innocent, the good, the pure, and the Koran.
The thing that can destroy Shiism is accusations of theft levelled at the clerics. That the clerics and their ilk have stolen for 30 years. What Shiite government suddenly realizes there was theft after 30 years? I won't even talk about the dollars that have gone to Turkey (NB Referring to $18.5 billion allegedly found by Turkish customs in a truck).
How can such accusations be made in front of 200 million TV viewers. (NB Saanei is referring to a presidential TV debate between Ahmadinejad and Karroubi, where AN accused Rafsanjani). Well, he's a lying bastard.