America’s Martin Luther King Day was embraced by the Supreme Leader on Monday. However, far from marking the occasion by heralding the work and ideas of King or the development in civil rights in the 1960s, Ayatollah Khamenei’s Twitter account put out a more downbeat message:
Many years have passed since equality of blacks & whites was first declared on paper in US, but discrimination still prevails. #MLKDay
And, while previous Twitter campaigns by the Supreme Leader have remained primarily within the space of his account, this one is being headlined by Iran’s State media. Press TV puts Khamenei’s message in contemporary context:
This year’s celebrations were held in the wake of nationwide Black Lives Matter demos over the past months in protest at racial profiling against African Americans, which were triggered by police killings of two black men in Ferguson and Staten Island.
Monday’s Twitter blast by the Supreme Leader was the latest in a series proclaiming endemic racial discrimination and violence in the US. Ayatollah Khamenei has also seized on the killing of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer:
Neither the Supreme Leader nor Press TV acknowledge the possibility that Ayatollah Khamenei’s clasping of Martin Luther King and Ferguson may have another motive: diverting attention from Iran’s own human rights record, which has been criticized not only by the US but also by the UN.
For years, Iranian officials have countered criticism of the Islamic Republic — including executions, mass detentions, restrictions on communications, denial of legal rights, oppression of religious faiths such as the Baha’i, and expulsion and harassment of students and professors — with the claim that the US is the leading transgressor of human rights in the world.
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