What did Khamenei actually say about Kashmir?

On the eve of Eid-ul fitr, a statement came from Iran in which Iran’s supreme leader Ayatuallah Syed Ali Khamenei asked clerics and laypersons to support oppressed people across the globe and mentioned the name of Kashmir as well.

In his sermon Ayatuallah Khamenei said, “I want to speak about the issues facing the Islamic world. There are many wounds in the body of Islam. The issue of Yemen is the biggest wound on the body of Islam and the issue of Bahrain is similar, people should support it. The people of Bahrain and Kashmir should also be supported. Our nation is always ready to support oppressed people of the world and our stand is always open and clear for our enemies, intellectuals, critiques and friends.”

This statement was gained wide publicity across the world and the people in Kashmir welcomed the solidarity expressed by the supreme leader. However, some separatist leaders in Kashmir and main stream national media in India misquote and misinterpreted the statement, which can misguide people.

Iran’s politics is closely linked with the Palestinian cause. In fact, the founder of the Islamic revolution had said, “Quds day is the day of Islam.” So far, no such statement has been made about Kashmir. Iran’s policy with regard to Kashmir remains neutral. However, the leadership in Iran has always supported the cause of oppressed people around the world. It is very similar to Indian Prime Minister’s comments about racial discrimination suffered by people of African origin in Europe and Baluchistan. The focus remains on oppression and loss of human lives. Also, Khamenei focussed on the current social unrest in Kashmir and did not mention the political crisis of Kashmiri.

Palestine is a more important issue for Iran. Similarly, it supports democracy over monarchy in Bahrain and has no intention of  colonising Bahrain. Similarly, Iran opposes the Saudi invasion In Yemen, Iran opposes the Saudi invasion that has caused hundreds and thousands of deaths but has no intention of conquering these areas

All the people who are condemning the statement or taking advantage of it, seem to be ignorant of the actual statement. Ayatuallah Khamenei never used the term “struggle of Kashmir”, which was used by separatist groups and the main stream media. He only asked people to support the people of Kashmir with regard to the suppression they suffer. This does not mean that Iran supports the Jihadist movement in Kashmir.

On 29 June 2017, Indian Express published a story that distorted the actual event. It stated, “On Eid, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran gave a chilling address in Teheran. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has publicly called for Jihad. According to Islamic jurisprudence, when an enemy takes over Muslim lands, it becomes everyone’s duty to perform Jihad in any form. Palestine is the most important issue in the Islamic world. Unfortunately, some Islamic countries ignore the Palestinian struggle.”

The current problem in Kashmir is very different from the issue of Palestine. The writer of the article published in the Indian Express seems to have a very poor understanding of Iran’s Shia ideology to which Khamenei owes allegiance. The statement on Islamic jurisprudence does not have any place in Shia ideology. On the contrary, the first Imam of Shia sect of Islam, Hazrat Ali said, “A government can be run with Kufr (non believer) but not with Zulm (Oppression).”

Ayatollah Khamenei did not use the word Jihad for Yemen, Bahrain and Kashmir. With regard to Syria, the term used is “Mudafeen-e-Haram”, which means “Defenders of the Shrine”. Even with reference to Palestine, the term used is “Muqawamat”, which means resistance. Ayatollah Khameinei did not use the word Jihad when he spoke about any of these places.

The Iranian government has always advocated negotiation between India and Pakistan to find a solution for Kashmir.

On 1 April, 2016, Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mehdi Honardoost said his country was ready to use its relations with Pakistan and India to mediate on Kashmir and help achieve sustainable peace in the region.

Furthermore,  Being a sovereign state Iran   supported India in almost many international fora, be it March 1994 when the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) tried to raise the Kashmir issue in the UN. Iran stood by India’s side.

The statement by Ayatollah Khamene has nothing to do with ‘Jihad’ as mentioned by the Indian Express in their poorly researched and misleading article. There is a vast difference between the issue of Palestine, Bahrain, Yemen and Kashmir. History tells us that there are many important differences between the problems being experienced in each of these regions. The Palestine issue is very much a global issue. Yemen was bombarded by an Islamic country, Saudi Arabia. The Kashmir issue is very different having various dimensions. Killings in any part of the world including Kashmir  cannot be justified. Also, even if one condemns an attack and loss of innocent lives anywhere in the world, it does not mean that one is supporting a particular political view or motive. In the same way, Ayatollah Khamenei’s statement is about opposing oppression and not an expression of support for any group or their political views.

The alienated Hurriyat Conference are exploiting every opportunity to mobilise Shia groups in the name of this statement by Ayatollah Khamenei, which is I think needs to be analysed and discussed. Some media groups have intentionally mis-translated the statement in their efforts to mislead people. Interestingly, the same people have opposed Indo-Iranian relation and their efforts to open the Chabahar port in Iran.

Finally, I would highlight the core of Shia belief which preaches that human conscience must take account of any atrocity taking place anywhere in the world and it must speak and denounce such acts.

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