Iran: What the death of dissident cleric Montazeri means for opposition
Christian Science Monitor / Scott Peterson

ran security forces and pro-government militants clashed sporadically with hundreds of thousands of reformist mourners at the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Iran’s top dissident cleric, on Monday.

The death of the grand ayatollah – a fearless critic for 20 years of the Islamic regime he helped to create – will be a blow to Iran’s opposition “Green Movement,” by silencing a supporting voice from one of the most high-ranking theologians in the Shiite world.

But Montazeri’s death – coming amid the most important religious event of the year, which commemorates resistance and martyrdom – is also problematic for the regime. It creates a powerful political rallying point that will bolster anti-regime sentiment and solidify the ranking cleric’s legacy.

The tensions over the death of an 87-year-old theologian get at the heart of the political and religious divide in Iran, where no one else has had both the theological gravitas and the sheer political moxie to challenge the position of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Yet the diminutive Montazeri did so, repeatedly, in keeping with a lifetime of challenging authoritarian rule as un-Islamic.

Montazeri called the disputed June 12 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “fraudulent,” and had “no religious or political legitimacy.” He said: “No one in their right mind” can believe the results.” He issued a number of statements after the v... >>>

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