Iran’s Dissident Cleric, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri Passed Away


NOTE: This is a live-blog article in which updates are being made in real-time as information comes in. To read this in chronological order, read from the bottom up.

Another picture showing the massive crowd (Times Online):

ghom-montazeri-funeral

[UPDATE - 1:35PM Tehran Time]

From Twitter user korshid3 pictures of the crowd of mourners and massive procession:

http://www.peykeiran.com/userfiles/image/Aks/Aks_5/fune_montazeri_12_21_2.jpg

http://www.peykeiran.com/userfiles/image/Aks/Aks_5/fune_montazeri_12_21_1.jpg

[UPDATE - 1:18PM Tehran Time]

The first three videos of mourners in Qom. Anti-government chants can be heard. One chant, “He who was the cheater, ripped the picture!” They are basically saying that the government that cheated in the presidential election is responsible for ripping Khomeini’s picture–a swipe at the regime after state media showed an image of Ayatollah Khomeini being torn (a taboo in Iran) and tried to blame it on opposition protesters.

[UPDATE - 12:41PM Tehran Time]

From Mahdi Saharkhiz’s blog, the first picture out of Qom today, showing masses of people attending the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri:

[UPDATE - 10:16AM Tehran Time]

The following is a live-blog direct from Qom, in Farsi:

Live-blog of Montazeri Day of Mourning in Qom.

[UPDATE - 9:43AM Tehran Time]

People chanting “Montazeri your path will be following even if the dictator rains bullets on us.”

[UPDATE - 9:31AM Tehran Time]

Reports are coming in of many tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people gathering in Qom. The following video shows Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s body in his home (via Mehdi Saharkhiz):

[UPDATE - 12:45AM Tehran Time]

Another video from Arak University, people singing “Yare Dabestani” and “Ey Iran”:

[UPDATE - 12:23AM Tehran Time]

Mehdi Saharkhiz posted several videos showing street protests, night chants and cars honking. Chanting against Seyyed Ali (Khamenei) can be heard. One chant, “The walls are covered in blood. Seyyed Ali is falling!”

[UPDATE - 11:42PM Tehran Time]

From Rahesabz (source):

KHAMENEI ASKS ALLAH TO “FORGIVE” MONTAZERI

Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei extended his condolences for the death of Shia Source of Emulation Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri

Ayatollah Khamenei described Ayatollah Montazeri as “a well-versed jurist and a prominent master”, adding that “many disciples have benefited greatly from him.”

“Ayatollah Montazeri spent a long period of his life serving the late founder of the Islamic Revolution and made many efforts and suffered much hardship for advancing this cause,” he said. “Toward the end of the Imam’s life there came a time of a great and dangerous test and I ask God in all his compassion to forgive him [Montazeri for failing that test] and consider his [Montazeri's] earthly struggles as a punishment (collateral) for that [failed test].”

By test, Ayatollah Khamenei was referring to the incident that resulted in the removal of Ayatollah Montazeri from his position as the successor to Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini and subsequent exile. Montazeri challenged the notion of the Rule of the Just Jurisprudent, which is the foundation of the lifetime rule of one cleric as the Leader of Iran.

[UPDATE - 11:12PM Tehran Time]

People in Iran marching, chanting “Montazeri is alive! Forever he is our Marja!”

[UPDATE - 11:02PM Tehran Time]

Unconfirmed reports saying Mousavi has arrived at Montazeri’s home in Qom.

[UPDATE - 11:01PM Tehran Time]

Another video from Arak University:

[UPDATE - 22:44PM Tehran Time]

Another video showing protesters in Arak University:

[UPDATE - 10:22AM Tehran Time]

Opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi have declared a day of national mourning. From Mousavi’s Facebook:

Following the announcements made by a number of Grand Ayatollahs inviting public to mourn the departure of the great shia scholar and noble combatant, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, in a joint statement Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi declared Monday to be a national mourning day and invited the grieving public to at…tend Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral which will be held tomorrow (Monday Dec 21st).

Omid Habibinia reports that demonstations are taking place all over the country.

Another video from Ayatollah Montazeri’s hometown:

[UPDATE - 4:56PM Tehran Time]

Reports are being made that Iran’s state news agencies are disrespecting Ayatollah Montazeri by not using his title when referring to him. They are basically reporting that he died and that’s it.

The regime appears to be attempting to downplay the event, but there are already calls being made for daily mournings every day until Ashura. The situation has the potential to become volatile.

Sharif University mourning procession for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri:

[UPDATE - 3:49PM Tehran Time]

Quick Opinion: As I hinted at in my initial report on Montazeri’s death (first entry at the bottom of the page), this does not bode well for the hardline regime in Iran headed by Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Khamenei’s complicity (if not downright responsibility) in the Grand Ayatollah’s house-arrest and imprisonment for years, along with the constant stream of government propoganda aimed against him in an attempt to paint Montazeri as an “old fool” is plainly obvious to the majority of the Iranian people. He is known as the insider who tried to confront the excesses of the regime during the tenures of Khomeini as Supreme Leader and Khamenei as President.

With six months of continuous pressure from the opposition and the people’s movement (calling itself the green movement) that sprung up and became cohesive during the campaign of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi (and following the rigged election) the timing could simply not be worse for the regime. Montazeri has died during the third day of Moharram, a time where Shiite Muslims mourn the death by murder of the revered Imam Hossein.

One of the predominant slogans of the the protest movement in the past 6 months has been, “Ya Hossein! Mir Hossein,” a deliberate association of Mir Hossein Mousavi with Imam Hossein (along with all of the connotations that go with the association).

Protesters were already planning rallies, expected to be large, for the 10th day of Moharram, called Ashura (on December 27th). Such rallies would already have been difficult to stop or even try to control by the regime because of the signficance of Moharram. It would be a taboo to attack mourners of the revered Imam Hossein. Yet the regime has been making constant threats to the leaders of the movement and their families even as they have attempted to round up student leaders since the Student’s Day protests of December 7th (16th of Azar) and the daily subsequent protests.

Green movement supporters were already were reportedly planning to ignore the threats. Khamenei had made similar threats in June, threats which he followed-up on via the unleashing of the Basij, IRGC and mercenary squads on the peaceful protesters. But the protest movement has continued to adapt and show itself to be a strong, difficult to crush force. This has given the movement tremendous momentum, rendering the threats of the government largely ineffective.

Now, with the passing of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, there will almost certainly be many more who will join the ranks of protesters on Ashura–a day which has the potential of dealing a huge blow to the faltering regime.

As I stated earlier, the stakes have gone higher (much, much higher).

[UPDATE - 3:38PM Tehran Time]

Another video showing a crowded procession, people chanting “Montazeri congratulations on your freedom,” and “your path will continue to be followed.”

[UPDATE - 3:25PM Tehran Time]

Unconfirmed reports are coming in that many thousands of people are converging on Ayatollah Montazeri’s home in Najafabad.

MikVerbrugge reports that opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi is on route to the residence of Ayatollah Montazeri, and may in fact already have arrived.

Mehdi Saharkhiz has posted several pictures showing Ayatollah Montazeri’s hometown of Najafabad being virtually shut down in his honor (source):

[UPDATE - 3:04PM Tehran Time]

Video from Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s hometown of Najafabad showing people chanting:

“Montazeri congratulations on your freedom!”, an acknowledgement and show of awareness for his home-imprisonment by the hand regime for years.

And, “Montazeri, your path will still be followed!”, meaning they will continue along the path of seeking freedom and justice, which Montazeri criticized the regime for not delivering to the people of Iran.

[UPDATE - 2:45PM Tehran Time]

The first videos are coming out of Iran of people chanting and mourning for Ayatollah Montazeri, from Elm O Sanat University:

“Today is a day of Mourning!”:

“Montazeri is alive!”

And a picture from the procession at Elm O Sanat University.

[UPDATE - 1:55PM Tehran Time]

Lara Setrakian of ABCNews has confirmed on her Twitter page that thousands rally to mourn Grand Ayatollah Montazeri in Iran…

[UPDATE - 1:15PM Tehran Time]

Zahra Rahnavard’s (wife of Iranian government opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi) Facebook page just posted the following report:

Zahra Rahnavard زهرا رهنورد According to ParlemanNews a great number of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s followers and devotees are moving toward his home in the holy city of Qom to pay their respect. After the announcement of the sad news of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s passing, many of his followers and devotees have gathered in his home as well as some of the senior religious figures including Grand Ayatollahs Mousavi-Ardebili, Shobeiri-Zanjani, Bayat-Zanjani, Saanei and Amini. Followers of this senior religious figure are moving toward his home in the holy city of Qom from Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Najaf-Abad and other cities.

BREAKING NEWS:

Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has passed away, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA. The circumstances surrounding his death are unknown at this time.

Ayatollah Montazeri was slated by Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, to succeed him as Iran’s Supreme Leader, but he had a falling out with Khomeini due the mass execution of dissidents that took place in during the late 80′s, following the Iran-Iraq War.

Ayatollah Montazeri was placed under house arrest for years, but because of his religious and revolutionary credentials the regime couldn’t completely silence him.

Following the rigged presidential election in June of 2009, Ayatollah Montazeri issued multiple statements in support of the people’s quest to have their rights respected. He was also very critical of the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad/IRGC coup government.

From Payvand.com:

Ayatollah Montazeri, the most outspoken critic of the Iranian government condemned what he called the “strategic use” of tearing Ayatollah Khomeini’s picture by the establishment. “By doing this you are defaming him (Ayatollah Khomeini) and saying that people would tear Imam Khomeini’s picture. If anything, you should have kept it silent! “he maintained.

Ayatollah Montazeri who was one of the leaders of the 1979 Iranian Revolution along with the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, told his Islamic class: “The late Ayatollah Khomeini truly served this country; the Revolution was his doing and he was the leader of the Revolution. However, he wasn’t a saint and he also made some mistakes.”

Montazeri has been very vocal in supporting the Green Movement for freedom and human rights in Iran. His recent statement blamed the regime for the tearing of Khomeini’s picture, and the airing of it it public, and said “…he wasn’t a saint and he also made some mistakes.”

Criticizing the regime and also breaking the taboo of mildly criticizing Khomeini in one statement.

Considering that Khamenei’s regime is reeling from six months of sustained anti-regime protests, and that they have been issuing numerous shrill threats against Mousavi, Karoubi, Khatami and other leaders of the movement, the timing of Ayatollah Montazeri’s death is very suspect.

Although the cause of his death is not known at this time, given the extreme lack of credibility that the regime in Iran now possesses, as Josh Shahryar astutely pointed out:

If there is no independent autopsy, I DO NOT believe Ayat. Montazeri died of natural causes #IranElection

And neither do I.

It is a shame that Ayatollah Montazeri passed without getting to see the realization of a free Iran.

It may be too soon to speculate, but I believe his death, whether by nature or by the design of his enemies, will galvanize the Iranian people further in their animosity towards the barbaric regime that has been beating, torturing, raping, and killing them. The Green Movement is planning large rallies during the Moharram holy day of Ashura…

I will follow the story closely and report on any developments.

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Dave Siavashi is the founder and editor of Iran News Now. He provided coverage of breaking news and analysis on events in Iran during the unrest that followed the 2009 presidential election. One of the early journalists to use social media effectively to report on breaking events, his tweets and articles have been cited in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Christian Science Monitor, Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, and Huffington Post, among others. He writes for Iran News Now and EA WorldView.
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