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Iran's supreme leader vilifies U.S. police on Twitter, says #BlackLivesMatter

By Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
updated 10:14 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei compares U.S. protests to Middle East conflicts
  • One tweet included #BlackLivesMatter, a hashtag popularized by supporters of Eric Garner

Abu Dhabi (CNN) -- In a series of blunt tweets over the holiday weekend, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei entered America's debate on race and police violence -- comparing unrest in states like New York and Missouri to conflicts in the Middle East.

On Sunday he tweeted: "#Jesus endured sufferings to oppose tyrants who had put humans in hell in this world& the hereafter while he backed the oppressed. #Ferguson"

Who is Iran's supreme leader?

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's chief political and religious authority, acknowledged the role of Jesus in Islamic theology and compared the biblical prophet's struggle to that of black people in the United States.

The tweet included #BlackLivesMatter, a hashtag popularized in recent weeks by supporters of Eric Garner, a 43-year old African-American man that died after being put in a chokehold by a NYPD officer.

It read: "It's expected that followers of #Jesus follow him in his fight against arrogants and in his support for the oppressed. #BlackLivesMatter"

On Christmas Eve, the Ayatollah lumped the struggle of Palestinians in the Gaza strip with protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where black teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by police, and called on members of all three monotheistic faiths to stand-up against oppression.

The tweet said: "#Jesus like all prophets was herald of monotheism& human dignity; nowadays humanity needs this message more than ever.#Ferguson #Gaza 1/1/93"

The unverified Twitter account, widely accepted as the mouthpiece of the Ayatollah's social media campaign, often posts diatribes against the West and Israel to its more than 91,000 followers.

In August of this year, the leader published a poignant image that criticized President Barack Obama's support for Israel during the country's military operation to debilitate Hamas, a group many Western nations including the U.S. designate as a terrorist organization.

"US govt has subjugated a great nation w/ massive resources to a criminal regime like #Israel.10/31/12 #Ferguson #Gaza," it said.

In response, some Twitter users accused the Ayatollah of hypocrisy, and tweeted him with hashtags such as #AllLivesMatter, #GayLivesMatter and #KurdishLivesMatter.

Human rights groups and observers regularly criticize the country for its poor record on executions, the treatment of political prisoners, and women.

In its 2013 report on Iran, Human Rights Watch said: "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."

2013: Iran reaches out on Twitter at Christmas

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