Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has started a controversial social media campaign against American Christians by comparing the struggles of the Palestinian people to those of Jesus.
"#Jesus endured sufferings to oppose tyrants who had put humans in hell in this world& the hereafter while he backed the oppressed. #Ferguson," the Ayatollah wrote on his Twitter account on December 28. The Iranian leader ramped up the series of tweets just before the Christmas holiday in an attempt to showcase what he sees as western oppression. The tweets included comparisons of Jesus' struggle to that of the Palestinians, mentions of Wounded Knee combined with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, and several mentions of Ferguson, Missouri in what some believe is an attempt to recruit those who feel betrayed by the U.S. to follow Islam. The mentions of Jesus are also believed to invoke a feeling of guilt to American Christians.
"It's expected that followers of #Jesus follow him in his fight against arrogants and in his support for the oppressed. #BlackLivesMatter," the tweets continued.
The Twitter account has been verified by Iranian experts who believe that Khamenei's office is responsible for the messages, but its 92,000+ followers are certainly no strangers to the anti-West statements that have been going on much longer than just this week.
"The Zionists are just like the Nazis," the Twitter account proclaimed earlier this month. Most of the account's messages are taken from earlier quotes by the Ayatollah, who has been Iran's Supreme Leader since he took office in 1989 when Ruhollah Khomeini died. But these latest quotes have been assembled from both early and current statements to stir up American Christians during the ordinarily festive Christmas season.
"It would take a book to list the instances of U.S. crimes against #Iran," another message claims.
But when word of this recent onslaught came out, many fought back, pointing out the irony of Khamenei speaking up for human rights. "@khamenei_ir Do not lecture my country's values as yours murders people for being gay," one Twitter user retorted, citing an earlier story about Iran's executions of gay people in the Muslim country. According to the NGO Iran Human Rights group, more than 400 Iranian people were executed for being gay in just the first half of 2014.
Several other Twitter users responded by using the #AllLivesMatter, #WomensLivesMatter, and KurdishLivesMatter hashtags to show that the Iranian leader's own policies should be reviewed before pointing the finger at the West.
"In Iran, young women are jailed for specious reasons, then raped before being executed in a barbaric effort to keep them out of heaven. The people of Iran are desperate for a show of support from the West," the Christian Science Monitor published in 2001 for International Women's Day.
Human Rights Watch pointed out many of these atrocities from Iran in its 2013 report on the country's own violations: "Many civil society activists remained in prison on political charges. Authorities regularly subjected prisoners, especially those convicted on politically motivated charges, to abuse and deprive them of necessary medical treatment.
"Iranian women continued to face discrimination in many areas including personal status matters. Authorities restricted political participation and employment of minority groups, who account for about 10% of the population."