Faeze Rafsanjani's Arrest and Ayatollah Khamenei's Fears

07/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Meir Javedanfar Coauthor of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of Iran

The arrest of Faeze Rafsanjani, the oldest daughter of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by the Iranian government, is a sign of warning against her father, and her supporters.

Faeze is a well known figure. She is an ardent reformist and feminist. A former member of parliament, she was voted the 46th most powerful woman by Forbes magazine in 2004. She has already been in trouble before. In the late 90s, her feminist magazine, called Zan (meaning woman), published an interview with the former empress of Iran, Farah Diba.

What worried the Iranian government about her is the fact that she took a leading role in the demonstrations. According to the Tehran based Asr Iran news agency, she was arrested, alongside another one of her brothers and four other family members, after attending a demonstration in Tehran's Tohid square. The fact that she is a leading Islamic feminist is one major source of worry. What has been notable about the current demonstrations is the presence of young women on the streets. Not only are they participating, but according to Roger Cohen's recent article from Tehran, they are also leading men to take on the baton wielding Basijis.

Her presence can also motivate other demonstrators, as it could make them believe that they are being supported by higher powers from within. What is interesting is that she was not a big fan of Ayatollah Khatami, because he was too "weak". According to her supporters, if during his eight year presidency Khatami had stood up to the conservatives, they would not have suppressed the reformists. Faeze is much more in favor of Mousavi and his unwillingness to back down.

Meanwhile, other senior politicians are voicing their concerns about the way in which the elections were carried out. In a recent TV interview, Ali Larijani the speaker of the Majles stated that the support of some of the Guardian Council members for one member (ie Ahmadinejad) was not helpful. In this case, Larijani is pointing to Ayatollah Jannati, who currently serves as the head of this all-powerful Council. An ardent supporter of Ahmadinejad and a close friend of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi who is Ahmadinejad's messianic mentor, it is thought that his close friendship and defense of Ahmadinejad is another reason why the president's "victory" at the polls is disputable.

As the demonstrations in Iran continue, sooner or later, the demonstrators are going to need the support of a leader. Otherwise, the demonstrations may disintegrate, due to factionalism and dispute over how to continue. For now, Mousavi has not been too controversial. However, his recent statement that he is "ready to be martyred" could be taken as a clear sign that he is not going anywhere, and that he is going to lead until votes are recounted in a fair and transparent manner.

The head of Iran's police force recently warned Mousavi about the demonstrators. What could separate him from his current status to that of Iran's Nelson Mandela, could very well be prison bars.

Ayatollah Khamenei's perception about the demonstrator's current desires for regime change are inaccurate. However, if his unwillingness to compromise and violence against demonstrators continue, he could very well turn this fear into self fulfilling prophecy.