Poor Grand Ayatollah!
On Montazeri's release
February 3, 2003
Western observers have found a new "moderate" mullah to add to their
list of so-called "reformists". This time their recruit is a Grand Ayatollah
once anointed by Khomeini himself (See photos).
Ms Elaine Sciolino informs us ["Freed
Ayatollah Again Makes Voice Heard"] that Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was
freed a few days back from five years of house arrest, "considers himself in
the 'reformist' camp of President Mohammad Khatami "
He complains of the "harsh" treatment he was subjected to by his fellow
"revolutionary" clerics: "They kept me isolated from society for five
years and wasted five years of my life this way. It was such a cruel thing to
do. I could have been useful, given advice, but they deprived me from doing it.
This is oppression " (underlined by me).
Poor Grand Ayatollah! While he was confined to his house and continued to enjoy decent
living, thousands and thousands of Iranians were imprisonned, beaten, executed, assassinated,
silenced or deprived of other human rights.
The Grand Ayatollah has his own understanding of "oppression", very
different from that of ordinary Iranians who are suffering for more than 23 years
from the religious autocracy he himself helped to institute.
True, Montazeri was deprived of his right to preach and speak, and most Iranians
included him in their protests against the violations of human rights by the Islamic
But should we forget that he was a backer of the theocracy, that he greatly contributed
to the inclusion of velayat-e-faghih in the constitution, that he funneled
money and weapons to terrorist groups, that his main purpose is to save and perpetuate
the present theocracy?
Many foreign observers and reporters do not see that
there are two different reform movements inside Iran. The one represented
by President Khatami is internal to the ruling clergy. These "reformists"
believe "conservatives" around supreme ruler Khamnei are endangering the
Islamic Republic, if not Islam altogether. They want reform in order to "save"
The other movement encompass the majority of Iranians who want to get rid of the
theocratic rule of the mullahs. These two movements intersect, sometimes during presidential
elections, but they are separate.
At any rate, we must defend freedom of speech, even that of Mr Montazeri and his
ilks. This is a matter of principle. But the internal quarrels of the ruling clerics
is not our business. I, for one welcome it because the more they fight one another,
the sooner their autocratic rule will collapse.
Fereydoun Hoveyda is a senior fellow at the National Committee on American
Foreign Policy and former Iranian ambassador to the UN before the 1979 revolution.
He is the author of The Broken Crescent.The Threat of Militant Islamic Fundamentalism
(Praeger 1999). To learn more about the Hoveydas, visit their web
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