Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused the US of tyrannizing its African-American citizens, saying “black people (in the United States) are oppressed, disrespected and humiliated.”
In a meeting with law enforcement officials, the Iranian ruler said American police use “cruel might” against minorities and that such abuses of power “will bring about insecurity, and not security,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
“In the US whose president is now a black person, the black people are oppressed, disrespected and humiliated, and such behavior has provided the ground for unrests too,” Khamenei said.
His disparaging comments came a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations, on the sidelines of a conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in which both men are participating. The US and other world powers are negotiating a deal with Iran aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear drive. The deal is intended to be finalized by June 30.
Khamenei was referring to the recent demonstrations and unrest in US cities against perceived racism in local police departments. According to Fars news, the leader was specifically speaking about a Chicago incident earlier this month where a black teenager, Justus Howell, was shot and killed by police.
Most recently, riots have broken out in Baltimore after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died of wounds he received while being arrested by Baltimore Police. City storefronts and police vehicles have been damaged and dozens have thus far been arrested.
While Khamenei told police officials that the law “should be mighty,” he spoke out against what he called Hollywood-style power wielded by Western police departments.
Using the events in the US as a negative example of police power, Khamenei urged policemen to use their “power along with justice and mercy,” the Tasnim news agency reported.
“Law Enforcement is the symbol of sovereignty and security in the Islamic Republic,” he said. “Therefore, it has to have might, but such might does not mean persecution and uncontrolled action.”
It was not the first time the Iranian leader has accused the US of deep-seated racism.
In a series of tweets in December, Khamenei disparaged the United States’ treatment of Native Americans and African-Americans, highlighting the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Wounded Knee incident of 1890 — a battle between the US government and Native American forces that ended in the massacre of hundreds of Native American noncombatants, including women and children.
“Was it not colonialists who killed Native Americans & enslaved millions of Africans? Are these American values? #Ferguson #WoundedKnee,” the Supreme Leader tweeted at the time.
Freedom of speech is severely limited in Iran. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are all banned in the country. A 2009 protest movement claiming voter fraud in the reelection of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was met with an iron fist, with thousands arrested and dozens killed by authorities.