One indication of a recent Hojjatieh resurgence was a statement by government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh during an 8 January press conference that any members of the Hojjatieh Society who infiltrate the government would be dealt with in the same way as other citizens, Iran Daily reported the next day.
The Hojjatieh renaissance was also in the news in the summer of 2002. Ministry of Intelligence and Security chief Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi confirmed the arrest of Hojjatieh Society members in Qom, Toseh reported on 27 August, and said that they were trying to exacerbate religious disputes.
Rudsar and Amlash parliamentary representative Davud Hasanzadegan-Rudsari said at the time that the society had “revived itself” and is “exacerbating Shia-Sunni conflict,” Aftab-i Yazd reported on 1 September. Hasanzadegan said that Hojjatieh’s efforts to exacerbate societal conflict on religious grounds threaten the country, and he called on theological leaders to act against this tendency.
Ali Akbar Siyaqi, who heads the Justice Department in Khorasan Province, attributed the renewed increased activism of the Hojjatieh Society to its belief that the Twelfth Imam’s reappearance would be hastened if society was more chaotic, Iran Daily reported on 11 September.
If Hojjatieh Society members confined themselves to proselytizing, there would be little grounds for concern. But Ayatollah Khomeini demanded the society’s dissolution in 1983, because its members opposed the concept of Vilayat-i Faqih. The group believed that the existence of a functioning Islamic government in Iran would delay the reappearance of the Hidden, or Twelfth, Imam (a.k.a. the Mahdi) and his elimination of all injustice and oppression.
The presence of Hojjatieh members in the Iranian government, therefore, worries some observers. Assembly of Experts member Hojatoleslam Hashem Hashemzadeh-Harisi said that the infiltration of the government by radicals from groups like the Hojjatieh Society undermines the search for national solidarity and threatens the Islamic system, Iran Daily reported on 9 January. Last summer, parliamentarian Hasanzadegan said of the presence of Hojjatieh members in what the Aftab-i Yazd newspaper termed “key positions,” “They are not competent, and state officials are duty-bound to confront them immediately.”
There is also concern that the Hojjatieh Society is part of a Third Group or Third Force in Iranian politics. A 21 May 2002 article in the Mardom Salari daily said that leftists who were driven out of the government after 1988 created the Third Group, and all the interviewees in the article agreed that the Third Group is not affiliated with the reformist 2nd of Khordad Front. Hojatoleslam Rasul Montajabnia told Mardom Salari that Hojjatieh is part of this Third Group, and he said that it is very active within the government and has access to the public purse. Montajabnia attributed its growth to the development of reactionary thinking.
Kayhan, the newspaper affiliated with the supreme leader’s office, published an article by Alireza Malekian on 1 September 2002 that said just the opposite. Malekian asserted that reports of 2nd of Khordad Front and Hojjatieh Society collaboration show the similarity in their views, as do reports about their members’ past collaboration. Hojjatieh’s opposition to the formation of an Islamic government because it might delay the return of the Hidden Imam, Malekian wrote, was similar to the intellectual and liberal reformers’ opposition to an Islamic government and preference for a democratic republic. Malekian wrote that reformers and Hojjatieh members prefer affluent lifestyles and are inclined toward Westernization.
The Islamic Coalition Association held its sixth reunion in January 2002, Hamshahri monthly reported the next month, and former Hojjatieh Society member, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, and Education Minister Seyyed Ali Akbar Parvaresh was favored to succeed Habibullah Asgaroladi-Mosalman as its secretary-general. In the end, Parvaresh did not rise to the top spot, but he does serve on the association’s central council and is Asgaroladi’s deputy.
It seems unlikely that under current circumstance the Mahdi will reappear, and it seems equally unlikely that the Iranian theocracy will disappear. A political system that is neither transparent nor truly participatory will always have some radicals on its margins, but the renewed activism of the Hojjatieh Society and of other extremist groups indicates that they have not given up on pursuing their agendas.
Originally published in Iran Report (RFE/RL), 20 January 2003, Volume 6, Number 3.
Copyright (c) 2003. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.