Jaafari and Shahrudi
Alireza Doostdar writes:
‘ I just read your . . . article on Salon (The big winner is… Iran), and had a comment on the section on Iraqi PM Ja’fari’s meeting with Iran’s judiciary chief Ayatollah Shahrudi. Shahrudi had apparently called for Iraqi judicial cooperation with the “Islamic Human Rights Organization” in Iran, which you said was an “an Orwellian phrase in dictatorial Iran.” I am not entirely sure what Shahrudi meant by this organization, but very probably, he is referring to the “Islamic Human Rights Commission,” a government organization which has ironically been quite outspoken against some of the illegal activities of the judiciary. This commission is not very well-liked by the judiciary hardliners. I know that it has repeatedly raised issues about the mistreatment of political prisoners and reformist newspapers, although it obviously hasn’t been very successful. Now why would Shahrudi positively mention an organization that is severely critical of his own judiciary? If this was indeed the commission that Shahrudi was referring to, in the weird place that is Iran, where Shahrudi himself has often blasted the judiciary for illegal activities and mistreatment of prisoners, this is not that surprising. Even hardcore reformists are often not entirely sure whose side Ayatollah Shahrudi is on, judging by some of his policies and decrees to his own judiciary. They sometimes give him the benefit of the doubt in believing that he is powerless in controlling a certain “mafia” within the judiciary which does as it pleases with political dissent (the figurehead for this mafia is Tehran Prosecutor Said Mortazavi), but that he doesn’t approve of their activities…
The other issue about Ayatollah Shahrudi, which I’m not sure whether you are aware of, is that he used to be the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. He was its chief in the early 1980s, before the al-Hakims. Apparently, he was born and raised in Iraq, and this became a very controversial issue around the time Ayatollah Khamenei appointed him to the position of Iranian Judiciary Chief (he was referred to in the newspapers at that time as “Mahmoud Hashemi Iraqi” rather than “Hashemi Shahrudi”, and I believe the “Shahrudi” part of his name was emphasized to stress his Iranian-ness – Shahrud is a town in the province of Semnan, near Tehran). I know from close friends who have kinship relationships with Shahrudi that most of his 11 children speak Arabic at home, rather than Persian. Anyway, this may have been one of the reasons that Ja’fari met with Shahrudi. I don’t recall any other visiting head of state meeting with a judiciary chief in the past, though I could be wrong. ‘
Doostdar, who studies social anthropology and Middle East Studies at Harvard, has a Persian-language blog of his own. He also participates in a joint Persian-language site.