A protest was held in front of the Iranian consulate in Karbala on Wednesday following the arrest of a prominent Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Sayyid al-Shirazi, by order of the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
The dozens of protesters, including some Shiite clerics, chanted the slogan ‘death to the Vilayat-e-Faqih (the guardianship of the Islamic Jurist)’ and called for Shirazi’s immediate release while holding Iraq responsible for allowing Iran to arrest the Iraqi cleric.
According to Farsi media outlets, excessive violence was used in the arrest of Shirazi in Qom where Iranian security forces stopped his car, insulted him and threw his turban on the ground before taking him to an unknown location.
Protests were also held in front of the Iranian embassy in Baghdad in support of the cleric.
Shirazi, who is the son of the Iraqi Shiite of Iranian descent, Grand Ayatollah Hossein al-Shirazi, is known to oppose the Vilayat-e-Faqih and believes in the separation of religion and the state. He is popular among Shiites in Iraq and Iran.
Iranian authorities did not announce the reasons for the arrest, however, a source close to Shirazi said that a video of him talking about the ‘absolute power of the Vilayat-e-Faqih’ which was done at the end of 2017 may be the reason.
Shirazi was known to be critical of the Islamic republic, especially after the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests.