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Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri

Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri

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Encyclopedia
Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri Najafabadi (1922 – 19 December 2009) was a prominent Iranian scholar, Islamic theologian
Islamic theology
Islamic theology is a branch of Islamic studies regarding the beliefs associated with the Islamic faith. Any religious belief system, or creed, can be considered an example of aqidah. However, this term has taken a significant technical usage in Islamic history and theology, denoting those...

, Shiite Islamic democracy
Islamic democracy
Islamic democracy refers to two kinds of democratic states that can be recognized in the Islamic countries. The basis of this distinction has to do with how comprehensively Islam is incorporated into the affairs of the state....

 advocate, writer and human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 activist. He was one of the leaders of the Iranian Revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

 in 1979. He was once the designated successor to the revolution's Supreme Leader
Supreme leader
A supreme leader typically refers to a figure in the highest leadership position of an entity, group, organization, or state, who exercises strong or all-powerful authority over it. In religion, the supreme leader or supreme leaders is God or Gods...

 Ayatollah Khomeini
Ruhollah Khomeini
Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini was an Iranian religious leader and politician, and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran...

, with whom he had a falling-out in 1989 over government policies that Montazeri said infringed on people's freedom and denied them their rights. Montazeri spent his later years in the holy city of Qom
Qom
Qom is a city in Iran. It lies by road southwest of Tehran and is the capital of Qom Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 957,496, in 241,827 families. It is situated on the banks of the Qom River....

, and remained politically influential in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, especially to the reformist movement. He was widely known as the most knowledgeable senior Islamic scholar in Iran. and a Grand Marja (religious authority) of Shi'ite Islam.

For more than two decades, Hossein Ali Montazeri had been one of the main critics of the Islamic Republic's domestic and foreign policy. He had also been an active advocate of Baha'i rights
Rights
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

, civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 and women's rights in Iran. Montazeri was a prolific writer of books and articles. He was a staunch proponent of an Islamic state
Islamic State
An Islamic state is a type of government, in which the primary basis for government is Islamic religious law...

, and he argued that post-revolutionary Iran was not being ruled as an Islamic state.

Early life and public career


Born in 1922, Montazeri was from a peasant family in Najafabad
Najafabad
Najafabad is a city in and the capital of Najafabad County, Isfahan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 206,114, in 54,529 families. It is located west of Isfahan and is increasingly becoming a part of Isfahan Metropolitan area....

, a city in Isfahan Province, 250 miles south of Tehran
Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

.
His early theological education was in Isfahan. Montazeri then went to Qom
Qom
Qom is a city in Iran. It lies by road southwest of Tehran and is the capital of Qom Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 957,496, in 241,827 families. It is situated on the banks of the Qom River....

 where he studied under Khomeini and went on to become a teacher at the Faiziyeh Theological School. While there he answered Khomeini's call to protest the White Revolution
White Revolution
The White Revolution was a far-reaching series of reforms in Iran launched in 1963 by the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Mohammad Reza Shah’s reform program was built especially to strengthen those classes that supported the traditional system...

 of Shah
Shah
Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

 Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, Shah of Persia , ruled Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979...

 in June 1963 and was active in anti-Shah clerical circles.

After Khomeini was forced into exile by the Shah, Montazeri "sat at the center of the clerical network" which Khomeini had established to fight the Pahlavi rule. He was sent to prison in 1974 and released in 1978 in time to be active during the revolution.

Iranian revolution


Montazeri was famous as an Islamic jurist who was made to pay for his liberal-leaning beliefs. He supported a democratic republic as the best form of government; however in his ideal model for government, an Islamic jurist acts as a supervisor and advisor, what he, along with Ayatollah Khomeini, termed as velayat-e faqih. He was the author of Dirasat fi Vilayah al-Faqih, a scholarly book advocating the supervision of the administration by Islamic jurists. He believed in the independence of the government and did not accept any executive and policy making role for the Islamic jurist. Montazeri asserted that the rule of the jurisprudent should not be an absolute rule; instead, it should be limited to the function of advisor to the rulers, who are elected by the people.

In 1979, following the overthrow of the Shah, he played a pivotal role in instituting Iran's new constitution. He was one of the leaders of the movement to replace the democratic and secular draft constitution proposed for the Islamic Republic with one where the supervision of Islamic jurists was recognized. He distributed "a detailed commentary and alternate draft" for Iran's new constitution. It included proposals to specify that Twelver Shi'ism – and not Islam in general – was the official religion of the state and to state that Islamic jurists should appoint judges with the right of veto over all laws and actions that are against the Islamic principles. Later he served on the Assembly of Experts
Assembly of Experts
The Assembly of Experts of Iran , also translated as Council of Experts, is a deliberative body of 86 Mujtahids that is charged with electing and removing the Supreme Leader of Iran and supervising his activities.Members of the assembly are elected from a government-screened list of candidates by...

 (Majles-e-Khobregan) that wrote the constitution and that implemented many of his proposals.
During this time, Montazeri also served as Friday prayer leader of Qom, as a member of the Revolutionary Council and as deputy to Supreme Leader Khomeini. Khomeini began "to transfer some of his power" to Montazeri, in 1980. By 1983 "all government offices hung a small picture" of Montazeri next to that of Khomeini.

Montazeri initially rejected Khomeini's proposal to make him his successor, insisting that the choice of successor be left to the democratically elected Assembly of Experts Later, Montazeri relented, and following a session of the Assembly of Experts that November (1985), he was designated Khomeini's successor as Supreme Leader.

Some observers believe Khomeini chose him for this role solely because of his support for Khomeini's principle of theocratic rule by Islamic jurists. Khomeini's proposed form of administration called for the most learned, or one of the most learned, Islamic jurists to "rule", and of all those who might be considered a leading Islamic jurist, only Montazeri supported theocracy. In Montazeri's opinion, however the jurist would not act as an absolute ruler, instead, he would act as an advisor and consultant.
... Montazeri fell short of the theological requirements of the supreme Faqih. He could not claim descent from the Prophet nor did he possess all the credentials of a revered scholar of Islamic law. His religious followers were few. And he lacked the all-important charisma. His selection had happened for one reason – he was the only one among the candidates for Faqih who totally endorsed Khomeini's vision of Islamic government.


Montazeri's leadership qualifications were further hurt by not being a seyyed, or descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, traditionally wearing the black turban in Shiite Islam, like Khomeini and Khomeini's successor Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

. In the early years of the revolution, he was not as popular as he was in the last two decades of his life. The middle class and elites would mock him in those early years.

Dispute with Khomeini and demotion


As designated heir to Khomeini, Montazeri's troubles began with his association with Mehdi Hashemi
Mehdi Hashemi
Mehdi Hashemi was an Iranian Shi'a cleric, and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, a senior official in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards; he was executed by the new Islamic Republic in its first decade...

 who ran an organization out of Montazeri's office which sought to export the Islamic revolution. Hashemi is thought to have embarrassed Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is an influential Iranian politician and writer, who was the fourth President of Iran. He was a member of the Assembly of Experts until his resignation in 2011...

 by leaking information of his connection with the Iran-Contra affair. Subsequently Hashemi was arrested, convicted and executed in September 1987 on charges of counterrevolutionary activities.

In November 1987 Montazeri created more controversy when he called for the legalization of political parties, though under strict regulation. He followed this by calling for "an open assessment of failures" of the Revolution and an end to the export of revolution
Export of revolution
Export of revolution is actions by a victorious revolutionary government of one country to promote similar revolutions in other countries, as a manifestation of revolutionary internationalism of certain kind, e.g., the Marxist proletarian internationalism....

, saying that Iran should inspire by example, not train and arm allied groups. Khomeini responded the next February by criticizing Montazeri and a month later called for a meeting of the Assembly of Experts to "discuss him".

Things came to a head following the mass execution of political prisoners in late summer and early autumn 1988. Montazeri gave a series of lectures in which he indicated support for a "far more open" policy and in an interview published in Keyhan in early 1989, criticized Khomeini in language that is said to have sealed "his political fate":
The denial of people's rights, injustice and disregard for the revolution's true values have delivered the most severe blows against the revolution. Before any reconstruction [takes place], there must first be a political and ideological reconstruction... This is something that the people expect of a leader.


Still worse for him were the publication abroad and broadcast on the BBC of his letters condemning the post-war wave of executions in March 1989. Montazeri also criticized Khomeini's fatwa ordering the assassination of author Salman Rushdie saying: "People in the world are getting the idea that our business in Iran is just murdering people."

On 26 March 1989 a furious Khomeini strongly denounced Montazeri's actions, and two days later announced that Montazeri had resigned his post. Montazeri did not protest his loss, issuing a message concluding, "I ask all brothers and sisters not to utter a word in my support."

In addition to losing his position as designated heir, Montazeri's title of Grand Ayatollah was withdrawn, publication of his lectures in the Keyhan newspaper and references to him on the state radio were stopped, his portraits were ordered by the then Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi to be removed from offices and mosques, and his security guards were withdrawn. "Articles and editorials appeared in various newspapers aimed at dismantling" Montazeri's "impeccable" revolutionary credentials."

Some have said that the amendment made to Iran's constitution removing the requirement that the Supreme Leader
Supreme leader
A supreme leader typically refers to a figure in the highest leadership position of an entity, group, organization, or state, who exercises strong or all-powerful authority over it. In religion, the supreme leader or supreme leaders is God or Gods...

 be a Marja
Marja
Marja , also known as a marja-i taqlid or marja dini , literally means "Source to Imitate/Follow" or "Religious Reference"...

 was to deal with the problem of a lack of any remaining Grand Ayatollahs willing to accept "illimitable velayat-e faqih". However, others say the reason marjas were not elected was because of their lack of votes in the Assembly of Experts. For example, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Golpaygani
Mohammad Reza Golpaygani
Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Golpaygani was a Twelver Shia Muslim cleric and marja. he was born in Gogad village, near the city of Golpaygan, Iran. He was taught preliminary studies by his father, Mohammad Bagher. At the age of 9, his father died, and he moved to Golpaygan to continue his...

 had the backing of only thirteen members of the assembly. Furthermore, there were other marjas present who accepted "illimitable velayat-e faqih"

Later dissent and house arrest


Khomeini died June 1989 and another cleric, Seyed Ali Khamene'i
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

, was selected by the Assembly of Experts to be the new Supreme Leader. Khamenei had been only a mid-ranking Hojatoleslam
Hojatoleslam
Hujjat al-Islam is an honorific title meaning "authority on Islam" or "proof of Islam", given to Twelver Shī‘ah clerics...

 before Montazeri's removal. His promotion was, sometimes silently and sometimes openly, rejected by many Shi'a, including Montazeri.

In December 1989 Montazeri's supporters in Qom distributed "night letter
Night letter
A night letter is an unsigned leaflet distributed clandestinely, very much like the samizdat that were distributed clandestinely by the dissidents in the Soviet Union...

s" questioning Khamenei's qualifications to be a Marja
Marja
Marja , also known as a marja-i taqlid or marja dini , literally means "Source to Imitate/Follow" or "Religious Reference"...

 e Taqlid ("Source of Emulation"), or in other words, an Ayatollah
Ayatollah
Ayatollah is a high ranking title given to Usuli Twelver Shī‘ah clerics. Those who carry the title are experts in Islamic studies such as jurisprudence, ethics, and philosophy and usually teach in Islamic seminaries. The next lower clerical rank is Hojatoleslam wal-muslemin...

. In retaliation Revolutionary Guards
Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps
The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution , often called Revolutionary Guards, is a branch of Iran's military, founded after the Iranian revolution...

 "detained and humiliated" Montazeri, "forcing him to wear his nightcap rather than his white turban."

In October 1997, after openly criticizing the authority of the Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei
Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

, Ayatollah Montazeri was placed under house arrest, under the pretext of protecting him from hardliners. He was finally freed from house arrest in 2003 after "more than 100 Iranian legislators" called on President Khatami to free Montazeri. Some thought that the government lifted the house arrest to avoid the possibility of a popular backlash if the ailing Montazeri died while in custody.

Criticism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad


On 22 January 2007, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri criticized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his nuclear and economic policies.

While agreeing Iran had the right to develop nuclear energy, he called Ahmadinejad's approach to the issue aggressive, saying, "One has to deal with the enemy with wisdom, not provoke it, ... his (provocation) only creates problems for the country" and asked, "Don't we have other rights too?", referring to individual and human rights.
Montazeri also criticized the economic performance of Ahmadinejad's administration's, noting the rate of inflation – including a 50% increase in housing costs – arguing that a country cannot be run on "slogan
Slogan
A slogan is a memorable motto or phrase used in a political, commercial, religious and other context as a repetitive expression of an idea or purpose. The word slogan is derived from slogorn which was an Anglicisation of the Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm . Slogans vary from the written and the...

s".

Montazeri also issued a statement in support of the rights of the Baha'is
Persecution of Bahá'ís
The persecution of Bahá'ís is the religious persecution of Bahá'ís in various countries, especially in Iran, where the Bahá'í Faith originated and the location of one of the largest Bahá'í populations in the world...

 in the Islamic Republic, saying that though Baha'is were not People of the Book
People of the Book
People of the Book is a term used to designate non-Muslim adherents to faiths which have a revealed scripture called, in Arabic, Al-Kitab . The three types of adherents to faiths that the Qur'an mentions as people of the book are the Jews, Sabians and Christians.In Islam, the Muslim scripture, the...

 like Jews, Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

s and Zoroastrians
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

, nonetheless:
"they are the citizens of this country, they have the right of citizenship and to live in this country. Furthermore, they must benefit from the Islamic compassion which is stressed in Quran and by the religious authorities."


Montazeri again spoke out against Ahmadinejad on 16 June 2009, during the protests
2009 Iranian election protests
Protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election against the disputed victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in support of opposition candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi occurred in major cities in Iran and around the world starting June 13, 2009...

 against his reelection. Ahmadinejad was controversially reelected as president after a closely contested and disputed election, which involved many candidates, but whose leading vote-getters were Ahmadinejad and former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi. The government reported that Ahmadinejad had won the election with 62 percent of the vote. Montazeri stated that "No one in their right mind can believe" the results were fairly counted. Montazeri called for three days of public mourning for the death of Neda Agha-Soltan and others killed during the 20 June protests. He further declared that the then current ruling regime was neither Islamic nor a republic.

In November 2009, on the day before the 30th anniversary celebration of the Iran hostage crisis
Iran hostage crisis
The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic crisis between Iran and the United States where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran in support of the Iranian...

, Montazeri said that the occupation of the American embassy in 1979 had been a mistake.

Human rights and gender


While Ayatollah Montazeri has been celebrated as a champion of the rights of political prisoners, and human rights associated with the public sphere, in an interview conducted in 2003 in Qom with the Iranian feminist academic Golbarg Bashi
Golbarg Bashi
Golbarg Bashi , born in Ahvaz, Iran, is an Iranian-Swedish feminist professor of Iranian Studies at Rutgers University in the US. Among other topics, Bashi has published works and given talks about human rights in the Middle East and the situation of women in Iran.-Biography:Golbarg Bashi was born...

 he said that while men and women enjoy the same dignity and respect in the eyes of God, women's rights must remain strictly under the domain of Shi'i fiqh
Fiqh
Fiqh is Islamic jurisprudence. Fiqh is an expansion of the code of conduct expounded in the Quran, often supplemented by tradition and implemented by the rulings and interpretations of Islamic jurists....

 rather than international human rights conventions such as CEDAW.

In response to Golbarg Bashi
Golbarg Bashi
Golbarg Bashi , born in Ahvaz, Iran, is an Iranian-Swedish feminist professor of Iranian Studies at Rutgers University in the US. Among other topics, Bashi has published works and given talks about human rights in the Middle East and the situation of women in Iran.-Biography:Golbarg Bashi was born...

, Ayatollah Montazeri said:
When Bashi informed him that currently (2003) in Iranian universities, "some 60% of students are women" and asked him "so in future generations, when the number of professors, physicians, high-ranking experts, etc, will be mostly women, will Islam be able to have an ijtihad
Ijtihad
Ijtihad is the making of a decision in Islamic law by personal effort , independently of any school of jurisprudence . as opposed to taqlid, copying or obeying without question....

 and modify these unjust laws because they no longer correspond with reality?"

Ayatollah Montazeri responded: "Those aspects of the Islamic law that are based on the very letter of the Qur'an, the answer is no. But certain other things yes, you can, and they can be subject to changing times. But those that are from the very letter of the Qur'an, no they cannot, and those have certain wisdom and subtleties in them."

Reputation


Montazeri had been described by his allies as "brilliant," down-to-earth, unpretentious, plain spoken, and as one who "lives plainly, and equates Islam with social justice" and stays above political infighting. His detractors portrayed him as stubborn and naive in his insistence that the Islamic republic find reconciliation with the "Hypocrites and Liberals" who are its "internal enemies."

Personal life


One of his sons died in a bomb blast at Islamic Republican Party headquarters in 1981 carried out by the People's Mujahedin of Iran
People's Mujahedin of Iran
The People's Mujahedin of Iran is a terrorist militant organization that advocates the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran....

; another, Saeed, lost an eye in the Iran-Iraq war in 1985, and a grandson was killed in the war in 1986.

He has been described by Ayatollah Mohammad Guilani as "meticulous about, if not obsessed by, cleanliness."

Death



On 19 December 2009, Montazeri died in his sleep of heart failure at his home in Qom, at the age of 87. The Islamic Republic News Agency
Islamic Republic News Agency
The Islamic Republic News Agency , or IRNA, is the official news agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is government-funded and controlled under the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The agency also publishes the newspaper Iran. , the Managing Director of IRNA is Ali Akbar...

, the official news agency of Iran, did not use the Ayatollah title in its initial reports of his death and referred to him as the "clerical figure of rioters". The state television and radio broadcasters were similar, showing the tension between the government and its opponents.

Funeral and protests


Montazeri's funeral has been said to have marked "a new phase" in Iran's 2009 uprising
2009 Iranian election protests
Protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election against the disputed victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in support of opposition candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi occurred in major cities in Iran and around the world starting June 13, 2009...

.

21st



On Monday, December 21, hundreds of thousands of mourners and the Green Movement
Green Movement
The Green Movement refers to a series of actions after the 2009 Iranian presidential election, in which protesters demanded the removal of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from office...

 supporters from across Iran turned out in Montazeri's funeral and turned the funeral to a massive protest against the Iranian regime. His body was laid to rest in the shrine of Hazrate Masoumeh, one of the most revered female saints in Shia Islam. He was buried alongside his son.

The protesters chanted opposition slogans, including "Our shame, our shame, our idiot leader", and “Dictator, this is your last message: the people of Iran are rising!”

Although the police mostly stayed clear of the funeral, there were some skirmishes between protesters and the Basij militia. Also on December 21, inside the Qom shrine where Montazeri’s body was laid to rest, opposition activists gathered and chanted “Death to the dictator.” When one group of pro-regime basiji militiamen came toward them, chanting “Death to the hypocrites,” the crowd changed to an anti-basiji slogan. Then they took out money, offering it to the basiji, and chanted that they were acting as paid mercenaries of the regime: “Where is the oil money? Spent on the Basiji,” and “Basij’s great pride, rape in prison.” On the same day, Mir-Hossein Mousavi
Mir-Hossein Mousavi
Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh is an Iranian reformist politician, artist and architect who served as the seventy-ninth and last Prime Minister of Iran from 1981 to 1989. He was a Reformist candidate for the 2009 presidential election and eventually the leader of the opposition in the post-election...

 stepped out from the compound of Grand Ayatollah Saanei, a fellow reformist, to cross the street to Montazeri’s house in Qom. At that moment, a group of 30 bearded men, holding Montazeri pictures to blend into the crowd, dropped the portraits, started attacking Mousavi and shouted “death to the hypocrite.” The former candidate had to be hustled quickly into the Montazeri compound. The same thing happened when cleric Mehdi Karroubi
Mehdi Karroubi
Mehdi Karroubi is an influential Iranian reformist politician, democracy activist, mojtahed, and chairman of the National Trust Party. He was Chairman of the parliament from 1989 to 1992 and 2000 to 2004, and a presidential candidate in the 2005 and 2009 presidential elections.He is a founding...

 stepped into the street. This time, groups of reformists were ready and pushed back the vigilantes, so that Karroubi could pass.

As the funeral procession ended, security forces poured into the city, blocking roads to the Ayatollah's house and tearing down posters of the Ayatollah. Mourners were reported to have thrown stones at police who tried to stop them chanting pro-Montazeri slogans. Mourners responded defiantly when ordered by loudspeaker not to chant, breaking into shouts of "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein" in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi. When a crowd of pro-government supporters chanted back: "I will give my life for the supreme leader," they were booed by mourners, a witness said. The security forces prevented the Ayatollah's family from holding a planned memorial ceremony in the grand mosque of Qom following the funeral.

According to the reformist website Kalameh, men on motorbikes, believed to be Ahmadinejad supporters, attacked the car carrying Mir Hossein Mousavi back from Qom to Tehran. They insulted Mousavi, smashed the back window and injured one of his aides.

There were also protests in Najafabad, birthplace of Ayatollah Montazeri. Internet videos showed protesters waving green banners and chanting, “Dictator, dictator, Montazeri is alive!” and “Oh Montazeri, your path will be followed even if the dictator shoots us all!”

22nd & 23rd


On the 22nd, December, Ahmadinejad continued his quest to strip his opponents of their last vestiges of political power. He interrupted a visit to Shiraz
Shiraz
Shiraz may refer to:* Shiraz, Iran, a city in Iran* Shiraz County, an administrative subdivision of Iran* Vosketap, Armenia, formerly called ShirazPeople:* Hovhannes Shiraz, Armenian poet* Ara Shiraz, Armenian sculptor...

 to return to Tehran and remove Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opposition leader he defeated in the presidential election, as head of the state Academy of Arts and Culture- a post he had held for ten years. Hardliners also want Mousavi arrested for his role in inciting unrest since the disputed June election.

On the 23rd, December, Iranian security forces clashed with tens of thousands of opposition supporters in the city of Isfahan, according to opposition website reports. Activists said police used tear gas, pepper spray and batons to disperse people gathering to commemorate Grand Ayatollah Montazeri in the Seyed mosque. People had gathered at the main mosque for the memorial service, but when they arrived the doors were closed and security forces told them to leave. Afterwards, security forces began beating people, including women and children with batons, chains and stones, used tear gas and pepper spray and arrested at least 50 people, including four journalists and a cleric, Masoud Abid, who was to deliver the sermon. Many were also injured. One witness said, "They took people in the shops and beat them up mostly out of public vision although some beatings happened outside on the streets." Security forces also sealed off the home of Ayatollah Jalal Al-Din Taheri
Jalal Al-Din Taheri
Ayatollah Jalal Al-Din Taheri Esfahani is an Iranian scholar, theologian and Islamic Philosopher....

, who organised the service and used to lead Friday prayers in Isfahan until he resigned in 2002 in protest at the regime’s growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile footage sent to the BBC from Najafabad
Najafabad
Najafabad is a city in and the capital of Najafabad County, Isfahan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 206,114, in 54,529 families. It is located west of Isfahan and is increasingly becoming a part of Isfahan Metropolitan area....

 showed crowds chanting "Criminals, rapists, death to the leadership" and "We're not afraid, we're not afraid" as security men watched from rooftops.

Police severely attacked mourners and protesters in several cities, with many wounded and arrested. The government also announced that banknotes with anti-government annotation, which recently spread across the country, will be forbidden starting from January 8.

24th


On the 24th of December, opposition Web sites reported that police in Tehran and the northwestern city of Zanjan
Zanjan (city)
Zanjan is the capital of Zanjan Province in northwestern Iran. It is an Azeri inhabited city. It lies 298 km north-west of Tehran on the main highway to Tabriz and Turkey and approximately 125 km from the Caspian Sea...

 clashed with protesters defying an order by the Iranian government banning memorial services for Montazeri. Protesters marched in Imam Khomeini Square in southern Tehran in a sign of mourning for Montazeri. The protesters chanted, “Today is a mourning day; the green nation of Iran is mourning today” — a reference to the trademark color of the opposition. The police attacked the protesters with clubs and tear gas. Older women tried to prevent the arrest of young men by throwing themselves on them, and were severely beaten by officers who intended to drag the young men away.

Meanwhile, the police in Zanjan, a city of mostly Turkish speakers, tried to prevent a mourning ceremony for Montazeri by locking the mosque where the ceremony was to be held and attacking mourners who chanted outside it. It was mentioned that: “The police beat people with such violence that many suffered from broken legs, arms and noses.” There were also many arrests.

26th


Witnesses and opposition websites reported the following incidents:
  • There were protests in several areas of the capital, including the poorer areas of south Tehran, and government forces were using tear gas to try to disperse demonstrators.
  • Clashes were reported in northern Tehran near Jamaran
    Jamaran
    Jamaran is a neighbourhood located north of the city of Tehran in Iran.Jamaran was once an independent village; it is now a part of the North Tehran region. It is best known for being the home of Ayatollah Khomeini during his lifetime...

     mosque (where Khomeini used to address people), between thousands of opposition supporters (who shouted anti-government slogans) and riot police. Reformist ex-President Mohammad Khatami had been due to speak at the mosque to mark the Shiite holy day of Ashura
    Day of Ashura
    The Day of Ashura is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram.It is commemorated by Shia Muslims as a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on 10...

    . However, security officials cancelled the Ashura speech to be given by Khatami and also surrounded the mosque. A reformist website reported about 50 plainclothes forces breaking into Jamaran mosque and attacking people. Riot police also fired tear gas during the incident. Protesters shouted, "death to this dictatorship" and "if Khomeini was alive, he would sure be with us," according to witnesses. A witness also said, "Police told them they have five minutes to leave and, when they were still shouting slogans and persisted, policemen on motorbikes drove through the crowds and fired teargas." Riot police and members of the Basij also chased demonstrators into the nearby bustling Niavaran
    Niavaran
    Niavaran is a district in the north of Tehran foothills. Bordering leafy, uphill-winding Darband Street, it can be reached from Tajrish Square, and is close to Darabad at the far north-eastern corner of Greater Tehran....

     street and fired paintballs at them. The security forces also arrested several protesters. Clashes were also reported between police and protesters near another north Tehran mosque, Dar al-Zahra, which is known to host reformist clerics.
  • Opposition supporters had gathered in groups along a stretch of a main Tehran city centre route several kilometres long, but police were out in force and were not letting them join each other. Earlier, there were clashes at several points along Enghelab Street, a main thoroughfare where months earlier hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters had staged protest marches after Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election. Police also stopped and arrested the passengers of a bus near Enghelab Square because they were chanting pro-opposition slogans. Some protesters were reported to have chanted: "The dictator must know that he will soon be overthrown."
  • Tension was running high at rallies in which protesters were chanting anti-government slogans in three areas of central Tehran. Government forces, including soldiers of the elite Revolutionary Guard and the paramilitary Basiji, are said to have reacted aggressively - beating protesters with batons, firing warning shots into the air to disperse demonstrators, using teargas and pepper spray and smashing the windscreens of cars that were hooting in protest, as well as making numerous arrests.
  • Security forces chased protesters into a building housing the offices of the ISNA news agency, where some demonstrators had sought shelter during the clashes, ISNA said, adding one of its reporters had been injured when security forces had attacked the building. An eyewitness said at least two people were injured when police chased after protesters into the building. “They fractured the skull of one ISNA person and badly beat up another employee,” the witness said. ISNA’s news service appeared to be working normally and it later issued a report on the incident, saying one of its reporters had been injured without specifying who was to blame.
  • An elderly woman travelling on a city bus in the area was heard urging passengers to chant slogans such as "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein" in support of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, a witness said. The witness said passengers on the packed bus also chanted "Our Neda is not dead, it is the government which is dead," referring to protestor Neda Agha Soltan, who bled to death during a June 20 protest in shocking scenes caught on video and viewed by millions around the world.
  • Witnesses said riot police fired warning shots in several areas of Tehran to deter demonstrators, many of whom chanted slogans increasingly against the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's most powerful figure, rather than President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
  • Clashes were reported in cities including Isfahan, Kermanshah
    Kermanshah
    Kermanshah is a city in and the capital of Kermanshah Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 784,602, in 198,117 families.The overwhelming majority of Kermanshahi people are Shi'a Muslims...

     and Shiraz
    Shiraz
    Shiraz may refer to:* Shiraz, Iran, a city in Iran* Shiraz County, an administrative subdivision of Iran* Vosketap, Armenia, formerly called ShirazPeople:* Hovhannes Shiraz, Armenian poet* Ara Shiraz, Armenian sculptor...

    , as opposition supporters used the Tasua and Ashura ceremonies to take to the streets.

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