Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was a prime minister in the early days of the Islamic Republic, and was held in high regard by Khomeini. One of Mousavi's advisors, Dr. Alireza Beheshti, is a relative of Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, one of Khomenei's closest confidantes. Last week Hassan Khomeini reportedly visited Beheshti's home, a clear and public sign of support.
Criticism of the regime cuts deepest when it comes from the family of their revered leader, and the regime does strike back. In September state-backed news outlets IRNA and Keyhan attacked Hassan Khomeini for appearing to support the opposition and cooperating with "behind-the-scenes elements," or critics of the regime.
"You truly have a situation where the revolution is eating itself up and eating its young if it is going after the descendents of someone who is seen as the heart of the revolution," said Parsi.
The role of Ayatollah in the Islamic Republic, he added, has meant that Khomeini the symbol is more important than the individual himself.
"It's important to be able to control the use of that symbol, and that's where the government has a problem, because the family members will have some say over the definition. And their definition is diverging."