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Stephen Sizer and the Khomeini Family

This is a guest post by Joseph Weissman

This past week, ABC News reported the arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini’s granddaughter Zahra Eshraghi, along with her reformist husband Mohamed Reza Khatami.

In direct relation to this news, illustrated with a photo alongside Hassan Khomeini guarding a copy of his book on Christian Zionism, Stephen Sizer comments:

Two years ago I took part in a lecture tour of Iranian universities at the invitation of Dr Zahra Mostafavi, the daughter of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Predictably, I was accused by Zionists of siding with the Iranian regime, with holocaust deniers, and those who allegedly want to ‘wipe Israel off the map’, etc, etc. I am glad that  what I always knew but could not say at the time has been made public – that they are part of the opposition movement to the Iranian regime. The picture is of Khomeini’s grandson, Hassan Khomeini.

Lara Setrakian, writing for ABC News, logged this story a few days ago.


I have several points to make in response to this.

1. Stephen Sizer presents this arrest as allowing him to finally reveal the secret of Khomeini family members in opposition to the Ahmadinejad regime.

Yet this is not news: the New York Times reported in April 2003 that Eshraghi was a leading reformer opposed to the oppression of women in Iran. The New Republic reported in August 2009:

Eshraghi and her husband are open supporters of Mousavi and have officially endorsed him through their party; both were arrested a day after the election. In another interview ten days before the election, Zahra said, “Mousavi was one of the very few people trusted by my grandfather.”

2. Zahra Mostafavi’s public support for Moussavi – also reported by TNR in August 2009 – is no secret either, and is not something Rev Sizer is revealing to the world just now.

3. Zahra Eshraghi, grand-daughter of Khomeini, is not the same woman as Zahra Mostafavi, Khomeini’s daughter. Both are active in women’s politics, but whereas Eshraghi actively opposes the chador (Islamic veil) being forced on women, Mostafavi sees wearing the hijab as divine law and therefore not up for debate. There is a clear difference, and Sizer had nothing to do with Eshraghi during his visit to Iran. Sizer was invited by Zahra Mostafavi.

4. In July 2006, Zahra Mostafavi wrote a letter to Hassan Nasrallah in praise of Hezbollah, imploring children to become suicide bombers. Not good.

5. Zahra Mostafavi did not invite Stephen Sizer to Iran in a personal capacity or even on behalf of her family. This was a tour organised by the NEDA Institute. Indeed, Sizer himself wrote in a report on his website:

In October 2007, she [Dr Zahra Mostafavi] invited me to give a series of lectures on the impact of Christian Zionism on the Middle East. The tour was arranged and facilitated by Dr Jawad Shabarf of the NEDA Institute for Scientific Research in Tehran.

In January 2006, Dr Jawad Shabarf wrote to Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson on behalf of the NEDA Institute. You can read Shabarf’s corresponse with Faurisson on a Google Cache of the neo-Nazi Zundelsite.

Rev Sizer’s acceptance of an invitation from the NEDA Institute is still inexcusable. It is not justified because Zahra Mostafavi’s niece is a reformer.

6. Hassan Khomeini, depicted in Rev Sizer’s blog, clearly supports terrorist activity against Israeli civilians.

From Payvand’s Iran News:

Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the father of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said in a July 18 letter to Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah that he is ready to go to Lebanon to fight the “enemies of Islam and humanity,” Iranian state television reported. Khomeini met with Nasrallah during a July 2 visit to Damascus, IRNA reported.

7. If Rev Sizer’s visit was genuinely out of concern for the opposition to Ahmadinejad, why did he spend his time criticising apocalyptic Christian Zionist theology without even mentioning Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic Mahdist theology?

8. If Rev Sizer was genuinely opposed to the Iranian state in 2007, why did he appear on the Iranian state’s Press TV in 2008? And why did he cite a Holocaust denier in the process?

9. If Rev Sizer was politically opposed to the Ahmadinejad regime in 2007, why did he appear at a political conference in 2008 alongside representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are armed and funded by the Ahmadinejad regime? (Holocaust denier Frederick Tobin was also in attendance, as were Neturei Karta reps).

10. Why was Rev Sizer happy to allow his book on Christian Zionism to be translated into Farsi by Zahra Mostafavi for open usage – despite knowing full well how the Iranian regime treats its Christians?

I do not believe that the very sad arrest of Zahra Eshraghi and Mohamed Reza Khatami justifies or negates Rev Sizer’s political alliances in any way.

For Christians interest in peace and justice who respect Rev Sizer’s writings, these developments may seem disconcerting.

Stephen Sizer’s output is focused on what he sees as the violent outworking of bad theology. Emploring Christians to embrace the Biblical quest for peace and justice, Reverend Sizer presents himself as a moral leader for how Christians should engage in politics.

Perhaps he too has some learning to do.