Washington - The VOA Persian service spoke with Mahmoud Moradkhani, son of Badri Hosseini Khamenei, the estranged sister of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and nephew of the supreme leader.
In the interview, Moradkhani commented on an open letter written by his mother that criticizes her brother and what she called his "despotic caliphate," saying he hopes "my mother's comments will break the opposition clerics' silence."
The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: Why did Ms. Badri Khamenei - your mother - decide to issue such a statement amidst the current situation? Can we consider it a statement of sympathy with the protestors? I would also like to know your general view of the statement.
MAHMOUD MORADKHANI: My mother's comments were made in support of the recent protests, which is a reason to be happy since it shows that people have become aware. They were conscious before, of course, but now they seem even more aware. [It demonstrates] that activities carried out during the past decades have been effective in informing people. Most importantly, people have lost their fear of this regime.
The government's repression is no longer having a negative impact on the movement and is not weakening the protests. This is a crucial development, so my mother seized the opportunity. Not only because of my sister's [Farideh Moradkhani] case, but because she wanted to show that she, like my father, [Ali Moradkhani Arangeh] was opposed to this regime from the very beginning. Our opposition is not just against Ali Khamenei. We have been opposed to the entire regime from its very inception.
My father said from the outset, from the very first months following the 1979 revolution, that the Akhund [mullah/clergy] should not rule. And that we oppose a religious government. [Our opposition] is to the rule of religion and to the position of Velayat-e Faghih [Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist].
My mother's position has been the same from the very beginning. I remember hearing her have these conversations with her brother at the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, when we would call to save people who were sentenced to death. Unfortunately, Ali Khamenei, just like the rest of them, like [former Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini himself, wouldn't hear a word of it and still refuses to hear it. His only objective has been to reach the pinnacles of power and stay there.
VOA: What impact do you think such statements would have on the current situation of Iran, both in terms of impact on leaders of the Islamic Republic, Mr. Ali Khamenei included, as well as on the current protest movement?
Moradkhani: I hope [my mother's comments] will have a positive impact. Maybe loosen the reins. [I hope] the leaders of the regime increasingly feel the danger and see themselves in peril. Those who are silent due to their own issues should speak up. Many people within the family and within the clergy completely disagree with the principles of the Velayat-e Faqih system. [These people] should speak out and not be fearful of the future.
Most importantly, [their speaking out] will be an inspiration - I hope it will be an inspiration - to the people who are on the streets; people who are fighting; people who have taken their lives into their hands, expending it along with everything they have, as a gift upon the altar of freedom and democracy, for liberation from the tyranny of the evil that is the Islamic Republic. I hope this is viewed as support, so that history will not reflect that so-and-so's sister remained silent despite being against it. Let's keep in mind that my mother is old. She is about 80 and not able to hit the streets and partake in rallies. She feels that this is the least she can do.
It's the first time my mother officially [issued] such a letter. When we [defected and] arrived in Iraq in 1985, my mother expressed her opposition [to the Islamic Republic] in the first interview that she gave. But after that, it was my father who was active.
VOA: Your family's background in opposing [the state] is well known, as you have mentioned. Has your mother recently had any contact with Mr. Ali Khamenei? Because she referred to the contacts she had with him. I just want to clarify whether she was referring to the past or the present time. Further, is her recent declaration of repulsion unprecedented, or were there other previous cases of [such declarations]?
Moradkhani: After the farce that was [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's election and the people's revolt that followed in 2009, and the fact that Ali Khamenei himself had ordered people to be shot in the streets, my mother's relationship [with him] was completely and irretrievably cut off. Even though my father was in prison, and our situation was bad, my mother would sometimes participate in family events when invited. And naturally, she would speak her mind in those events.
But she had no relationship with her brother after 2009. And I, personally, have not had any contact with Ali Khamenei or with others in the family since then, especially those who are in the government.
VOA: Finally, I would like to hear about your sister, Farideh Moradkhani, who is currently in custody. Do you have information about the proceedings of her case that you can share with us?
Moradkhani: My sister's case changed a bit because, at first, they had sentenced her to 15 years in prison. I don't know what transpired afterward, but in a phone call they made from inside the prison, I heard that she herself had said the 15-year sentence was reduced to five years. And out of those five years, she is now supposed to spend only three. Now if this regime is overthrown, she will be released sooner. But if the regime remains, she will unfortunately have to be in there for the next three years.
But I think and hope that this regime will perish before that, and thousands of jailed Iranians will be released.