A key figure in the growing movement against Iran’s theocratic regime, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri may, in death, prove to be a more powerful voice for reform.
What began as a funeral procession for the dissident cleric in the holy city of Qom yesterday was transformed into a defiant demonstration as opponents of the regime, many clad in reformist green, chanted anti-government slogans. Ayatollah Montazeri was a leading figure of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran before becoming one of its most outspoken critics.
Though he apparently died in his sleep Sunday at age 87, Ayatollah Montazeri is being cast as a martyr of the reform movement. It’s a role that carries particular resonance since a ceremonial day of mourning to mark the seventh day following his death will coincide with Ashura, a holiday honouring the Shia martyr Imam Hussein. The two events set the stage for protests that could well be larger and more threatening to the regime than any seen since June’s disputed election.
“Montazeri’s death is a catalyst for a broader showdown between the regime and the opposition, and the regime is clearly pulling out all the stops,” said Robin Wright, a historian, Iran observer and senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
“This is an important moment. History is made by a confluence of factors, and you have in this year or the past six months a series of major developments [in Iran], all things that intersecte… >>>