By Helia Ighani and Garrett Nada
On the eve of a pivotal election, Iran’s theocratic regime faces one of its most striking challenges from the grandchildren of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolutionary leader who mobilized millions to end more than 2,500 years of dynastic rule. Seven of the 15 grandchildren have openly criticized the laws and the leadership since the mid-1990s. Two have publicly disapproved of election practices in the 2013 presidential poll. Four supported reformist candidates in the disputed 2009 presidential election.
Iranians “consider us faithful custodians of the thoughts of the Imam Khomeini, and so we get upset with whoever wants to move our country and our revolution away from the path outlined by the founder of the Islamic Republic,” Ali Eshraghi, a grandson, told the Italian Adnkronos International news agency in 2008. Eshraghi is an advocate of major reforms who was once barred from running for parliament.
Khomeini and his wife Batoul had five children. After his death in 1989, Khomeini’s daughter Zahra Mostafavi was the first family member to challenge the regime. In an open letter in May 2013, she urged the supreme leader to reverse the Guardian Council’s barring of former President Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani from running for president. She heads a party that advocates for women’s rights and increased political participation. The following is a rundown on the seven rebel grandchildren.