Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani

The head of Iran’s Expediency Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, says people must be allowed to make constructive criticism of the government.

In a meeting on Wednesday with members of a number of NGOs, Ayatollah Rafsanjani said: “If the people and our youth are not given the chance and space to express their healthy criticism and to be active, these criticisms will not be silenced, they will merely be taken to underground gatherings.”

The Mehr News Agency reports that the head of the Expediency Council said: “Open criticism in the framework of the law is part and parcel of youth,” adding that the country’s leaders are kept on their toes by such criticism.

According to the report, somone in Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s audience said: “Unfortunately, in the past few years, they have heavily restricted the activities of grassroots organizations, and many have been unable to renew their permits.”

During the presidency of reformist president Mohammad Khatami, many NGOs were established and became very active in Irnaian society.

Since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2004, the NGOs began to face progressively greater restrictions, and some have been completely shut down.

However, Ayatollah Rafsanjani stressed on Wednesday that independent grassroots organizations are vital to the health of both the economy and society.