Thursday, December 24, 2009

Iran loses it's "Desmond Tutu", Ali Montazeri

A life animated by conscience, not power
Denver, Colorado (CNN) -- The moral conscience of Iran's reform movement passed away Sunday morning. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died at 87, was the Iranian equivalent of South Africa's Desmond Tutu for politics.

Over the past 20 years, he distinguished himself by virtue of his persistent, judicious criticism of human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic and his defense of the democratic aspirations of the people of Iran within the framework of an ethical interpretation of Shia Islam.

His death comes as a huge blow to the Green Movement, yet his supporters will take comfort that he lived a full life and intervened on all the major political questions plaguing Iranian and Islamic politics. [...]

Ayatallah Montazeri once said "The Islamic Republic is neither a Republic nor Islamic". Even in death, he has become a rally point for Iran's political opposition. Read the whole thing for some fascinating insights into Iranian politics.

And the struggle is certainly not over, but continuing. It seems they are even locking up clerics now:

Iran bans memorials for cleric in wake of violence
[...] The death on Sunday of the 87-year-old Ali Montazeri, a sharp critic of Iran's leaders, has given a new push to opposition protests, which have endured despite a heavy security crackdown since disputed presidential elections in June.

Iran has been in turmoil since the vote, which the opposition alleges Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by fraud.

On Wednesday, a memorial for Montazeri in the central city of Isfahan turned into anti-government demonstrations, and mourners clashed with riot police. At least 50 were arrested, according to reformist Web sites. Security forces and hard-line militiamen assaulted the crowd gathered at Isfahan's main mosque for Wednesday's memorial, beating men and women and firing tear gas to disperse them. The reports could not be independently confirmed since authorities have banned foreign media from covering protests.

The funeral procession for Montazeri in Qom on Monday also turned into a rally against the government.

The memorials have brought out not only the young, urban activists who filled the ranks of earlier protests, but also older, more religious Iranians who revered Montazeri on grounds of faith as much as politics.

And the government has started moving for the first time against clerics who support the opposition — in Isfahan, pro-government Basij militiamen on Wednesday surrounded the house and office of two prominent religious figures, shouting slogans and breaking windows, opposition Web sites reported.

Montazeri's death comes as Iran marks one of the most important periods on the Shiite religious calendar, the first 10 days of the Islamic month of Moharram, a time of mourning rituals for a revered Shiite saint. The period culminates on Sunday with Ashoura — a day that coincides with the seventh day after Montazeri's death, a traditional day of further commemorations. [...]

I'm hoping Iran finds it's own glasnost, and sweeps the current theocratic regime away. They deserve better.

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