In a two-part interview with Israel’s Channel 14 on Tuesday and Wednesday, the nephew of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei praised the masses who’ve been risking and losing their lives to extricate themselves from the grips of the ayatollah-run regime.
A France-based expat, Dr. Mahmoud Moradkhani has been following from afar the ongoing protests in his home country, spurred by the murder in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s morality police for not wearing her hijab properly.
Moradkhani, who left Iran in 1986, seven years after the Islamic Revolution, to study medicine in Paris, is the son of Khamenei’s sister, Badri Hosseini Khamenei. Her whereabouts have been in question since December 7, when he tweeted an open letter that she penned in support of the rallies.
Iran supreme leader's family support the protests
“I oppose my brother’s actions,” she began in the post that went viral. “I express my sympathy for all mothers mourning the crimes of the Islamic Republic regime [from the time of its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] to the current era of the despotic caliphate of Ali Khamenei.”
“I express my sympathy for all mothers mourning the crimes of the Islamic Republic regime [from the time of its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] to the current era of the despotic caliphate of Ali Khamenei.”Badri Hosseini Khamenei
She concluded the lengthy missive by declaring that “the people of Iran deserve freedom and prosperity, and their uprising is legitimate and necessary to achieve their rights,” adding, “My brother wrongly considers the voice of his mercenaries and money-grubbers to be that of the Iranian people. He is rightly deserving of the disrespectful and impudent words that he uses to describe the oppressed, but brave, Iranian people.”
Speaking to correspondent Dror Balazada via Zoom in Farsi with Hebrew subtitles, Moradkhani was vague about his mother’s current circumstances, although he pointed out that she cut off relations with Khamenei in 2009, when he ordered the killing of anyone challenging the fake re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying she’s at home and sending messages indirectly.
He was a bit more specific about his sibling, Farideh, a feminist and human-rights activist who was arrested last month for recording a video referring to her uncle’s reign as murderous and child-killing.
Two days later, she taped another clip, which Moradkhani shared on social media, calling on the international community to stop all dealings with the powers that be in Tehran.
“My sister is currently in jail,” he recounted, explaining that her original 15-year sentence was reduced first to five years and then to three.” However, he said, “from the moment that my mother’s letter was made public, [Farideh] wasn’t allowed to talk to the family so we don’t know what’s going on with her. We know she’s under tight security in a place whose purpose is to educate criminals, ordinary criminals, not those categorized as political prisoners.”
With cautious optimism, Moradkhani stated, “I’m not and have never been a prophet but I know that after this regime goes, the situation will be much better not only for the Iranian people but for the region and the world.”
The mullah-led theocracy “has destroyed even the Islamic religion,” he asserted, going on to observe that the Iranians taking to the streets “are no longer afraid and shouldn’t be afraid of tomorrow. The fact that they’ve lost their fear is very positive and there are things we can do to make the coup move faster.”
WHAT CAN’T be counted on to speed up the process, he said, is Khamenei’s imminent demise, despite widespread rumors of his deteriorating health.
“Unfortunately, the clerics [enjoy] longevity,” he quipped. “My grandfather died at the age of 92; my father at 96. Maybe it’s luck; maybe it’s genetics; maybe it’s because of their mental state.”
In any case, he stressed, he’d prefer for his still relatively young uncle to die a natural death and live to be toppled, tried and imprisoned. But history cannot be recorded before it happens and it’s very possible that reality will surpass any imagination.
As for how he envisions the post-Khamenei period, he said, “In my opinion, what’s important is that after [he’s gone], no one will be able to stabilize the role of Supreme Leader.”
Probed by Balazada about the human side of the tyrannical ayatollah, Moradkhani gave a surprising answer.
“I knew Ali Khamenei as the best uncle there is; I loved him,” he said. “I knew him as a very sociable, good-natured man, both with us and with others. [In my youth], I had nothing against him. At that time, I looked at him as a father, because my father was a violent and [joyless] man who didn’t like to go for walks or on vacation, while Ali Khamenei was a more gregarious person.”
Balazada opened the second half of the conversation with a query about the threat that Iran poses to Israel.
“I don’t think that Israel has the upper hand,” Moradkhani replied. “Your [Israel’s] mistake was focusing mainly on the nuclear issue. You should have worked more to build an opposition because even if [the Iranians] had an atomic bomb, they wouldn’t be able to use it. Did [Russian President Vladimir] Putin use it in the current war [in Ukraine]? In my opinion, this weapon is unusable. They themselves know that the moment they press the red button, they will be wiped out.”
Picking up on the critique, Balazada asked whether Israel can help the protesters. Moradkhani responded in the affirmative.
“Not directly, of course, but indirectly, without even a mention of the name ‘Israel,’ due to the sensitivity involved,” he said. “I think there is pressure on European countries, including France, to help. Their help shouldn’t be direct either.”
He continued, “The current sanctions are insufficient. Even removing ambassadors from Iran isn’t enough. The only thing that can have an effect is aiding the demonstrations so that the number of participants is very high. The greater the number, the faster the coup will advance.”
WINDING DOWN the discussion, he addressed the Islamic Republic’s attitude toward Ramallah and Gaza with skepticism.
“I don’t think Iranian leaders are actually concerned about the welfare of Palestine and Palestinians,” he said. “The current regime uses the Israel-Palestine issue to remain in power.” He was certainly correct about that.
His next assessment that if the above leadership weren’t in power, “there’s a very high probability that the extremist forces among Palestinians and Israelis would diminish, and true peace between the two peoples would prevail,” was less accurate. Yet it’s true that Tehran funds Palestinian terrorists and the absence of the money would put a dent in their annihilation machine.
Perhaps his wording stemmed from a desire not to alienate others whose backing he’s been busy trying to enlist on behalf of his embattled landsmen. Balazada articulated this at the close of the one-on-one exchange.
“Moradkhani is well aware that the rare interview he granted to a Zionist media outlet might elicit criticism and damage his legitimacy, including among his supporters,” he narrated.
Indeed, laughed Moradkhani, “Now they’ll tell me, ‘Why did you go to talk to the Israelis?’”
Still, he emphasized his gratitude “for the opportunity to promote peace in the region and advocate for the demonstrations aimed at the disappearance of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
That the latter would bolster the former is axiomatic and should be treated as such.