This Op-Ed/Analysis is the author's personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of JerusalemOnline.com if you would like to send us your op-ed to be published - blogs@jerusalemonline.com

Op-Ed: Iran’s Nelson Mandela Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi

Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi promotes a vision supporting a separation of church and state in Iran. For these beliefs supporting women’s rights, human rights and minority rights, he served 11 years in prison and was tortured. However, his worldview has the potential to inspire the creation of a free Iran, just as Nelson Mandela’s advocacy led to the abolition of the apartheid regime.
Photo Credit: Youtube

Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi is a high-ranking prominent dissident clergyman in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has strongly called for a separation of church and state, and he condemns radical Islamist terrorism. He is opposed to the rule of Velayet-e-Faqih (Islamic custodianship over people), the theocratic system that governs the Islamic Republic of Iran. Boroujerdi offers an alternative vision for Iran that supports peace, democracy, freedom and human rights. Boroujerdi has many supporters within the Islamic Republic and is known as Iran's Nelson Mandela.

During the 1990’s, Boroujerdi established a new movement in which he led benediction ceremonies in the presence of Shiites and Sunnis, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Baha’is and followers of other beliefs. He called for the abolishment of executions alongside other cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishments such as torture, stoning and whipping. He rejects anti-Semitism and advocates religious freedom. He established charities and welfare centers for helping the poor and assisting victims of natural disasters.

The enmity of the Iranian regime against Boroujerdi began 30 years ago, when he first went public with his support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and started to protest against the abuses committed by the theocratic regime. Consequently, he served 11 years in jail, where he was tortured on numerous instances. Boroujerdi was beaten, thrown against a wall and had cold water thrown on him in his sleep. During this period of time, he had no access to medical care or a lawyer, even though he suffers from a heart condition, pulmonary issues, diabetes, has severe problems with his cataracts and kidney stones.  His legs are also swollen, which makes it difficult for him to walk and his hands shake due to the fact he suffers from Parkinson’s disease. His belongings were confiscated, his house was taken from him, he was banned from wearing clerical robes and his family was torn apart. Originally, Boroujerdi was given a death sentence but his sentence was commuted to 11 years in prison under heavy international pressure. However, there were still several attempts to kill him in prison.

So as a result of promoting an ideal for a monotheistic faith that excludes politics from the equation, Boroujerdi sacrificed his youth and health. Recently, this injured cleric was sent out for his first temporary medical leave since being jailed following the critical deterioration of his health condition. However, he has been forced into accepting serious conditions imposed by the rulers, such as hefty bail amounts, bondsmen and severe commitments including “never to meet people.”

However, these conditions have not stopped Boroujerdi from presenting new ideas and approaches based on monotheism in order to dampen Islamic radicalism and to establish peace in the Middle East as well as the world at large. His new teachings have been compiled into a book which showcases a new scientific doctrine called “incompatibility of the religious contexts with the religious records,” which espouses modern views on monotheism that result in an ultimate peaceful approach to human livelihood and convergence between varying religious believers. Therefore, the Boroujerdi Civil Rights Groups is an organization established in United Sates based on Boroujerdi’s request to support its central purpose of advocating and protecting the basic civil rights of religious freedom, freedom of conscience and the rights of women globally.

Despite being imprisoned for 11 years, Boroujerdi never wavered from his stances and has persisted with his campaign from within prison, which can be seen via his writing and published material. He is therefore one of the most important symbols of this struggle for religious non-violence in Iran. His effective efforts and plans are the best solution to make a new Iran and Middle East free from religious violence and inhumane laws as a result of the demonstrably incorrect interpretation of religious contexts. Thus, just as Mandela inspired South Africa to become a democratic nation liberated from the yoke of the apartheid regime, Boroujerdi is a non-violent religious leader who has the potential to lead Iran towards becoming a free, democratic and secular state that respects women’s rights, human rights and minority rights.



JOL Blogger | Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.  She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Maryland at College Park. She worked as a content manager and writer for United with Israel and had a blog in the Jewish Press. She has over 4 years of experience working for Zionist non-profits.

Avraham specialty is counter-terrorism, women's rights, minority rights, Middle Eastern affairs and international relations.  

She is the author of Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media, a ground-breaking book on terrorism in the Middle East that was endorsed by former Israel Consul General to Miami, former Israel Consul General to Chicago and former Deputy Mayor of Netanya Yitzchak Ben Gad. Click here to purchase the book


Click Here for more reports by Rachel Avraham


Found mistakes in this report? - Click Here

JerusalemOnline News Feed