Pro-democracy protesters in Iran
Pro-democracy protesters in IranIsrael news photo: (file)

Pro-democracy activists in Iran reported Wednesday that family members of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have been secretly flown to Russia. The move was allegedly prompted by concerns over continuing anti-regime protests and resistance.

The Iranian Students Solidarity organization, representing tens of thousands of students in Tehran and other major cities, claims that contacts within the regime leaked the information to them. According to these sources, members of Khamenei's family, including his daughter-in-law and grandson, have been evacuated to Russia in a private plane. In their secret trip, the Khamenei family members were accompanied by special security personnel assigned to maintain their safety.

The pro-democracy organization further claims, quoting the same alleged regime contacts, that Khamenei dispatched a close confidante to Russia to explore the possibility of the Russians hosting the Khamenei family. According to the student solidarity movement sources, the emissary met with various Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The source added that Putin's wife offered the Supreme Leader's relatives an estate near Moscow to "accommodate [them] for as long as it is necessary," according to an Iranian Students Solidarity statement.

The trip to Russia allegedly took place in the wake of violent clashes between regime forces and protesters on December 28.

An Iranian pro-democracy activist in contact with the students who released the information told Israel National News that he believes the information to be reliable. "Our contacts spoke with [the Iranian Student Solidarity activists]... as well, in case their site was hacked and this was 'rumor'. All indications are [that] it is credible," he said.

In response to a suggestion by Israel National News that the claims may be disinformation, the activist replied, "Time will tell. Since they have a large family, it will be noticed soon!" He feels the secret flight of the Khamenei family was undertaken "in anticipation of an upcoming uprising."

In early December, Iranian pro-democracy sources told Israel National News that Khamenei was spirited to a "secret location" for his own safety and that the nation's religious leaders are "scared."

A letter that was purported to be from within the regime was circulated through the Internet last month saying that Khamenei's "escape jet" was fueled and ready, if needed. Most observers dismissed the report as a fabrication intended to boost protesters' motivation.