OpinionIran in the World PressAyatollah Montazeri's legacy

Ayatollah Montazeri’s legacy

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ImageNew York Times – Editorial: In life, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri played a seminal role in Iran as the leading dissident cleric criticizing an increasingly hard-line, morally bankrupt and inhumane government. The New York Times

Editorial

ImageIn life, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri played a seminal role in Iran as the leading dissident cleric criticizing an increasingly hard-line, morally bankrupt and inhumane government. In death, he may have become an inspiration and rallying point for a resilient opposition that is the regime’s most significant challenge since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

When he died last weekend at the age of 87, Ayatollah Montazeri had spent most of the last two decades arguing that the clerical establishment in Tehran had abandoned the revolution’s core principles. He helped found the Islamic republic with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and was expected to succeed him as supreme leader — until he fell out of favor for objecting to a wave of executions of political prisoners in 1988.

Ayatollah Montazeri continued to issue religious edicts that advocated reform and human rights and tried to reconcile Islam with democracy. After President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent election last June, the cleric sided with the opposition and argued that even in a religious state, legitimacy comes from the people.

The regime is growing more desperate at its inability to silence this internal challenge.

After hundreds of thousands of mourners turned Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral on Monday into a protest against the regime, authorities banned further memorial services ahead of Shiite Islam’s most important religious commemoration this Sunday. On Wednesday, security forces clashed with protestors at another memorial and dozens were arrested. It was the latest in a vicious crackdown — including prison killings and rapes — since the June election.

We fear there is more threatening behavior to come. There are rumors that the opposition leaders Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi will be arrested. And rather than resolve concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, President Ahmadinejad has said Tehran will defy President Obama’s end-of-year deadline for accepting a compromise that would reduce Iran’s supply of potential bomb fuel and buy time for further diplomacy.

Mr. Obama should keep to that deadline and press the other members of the United Nations Security Council to impose tougher sanctions.

Before his death, Ayatollah Montazeri apologized for the 1979 Iranian seizure of the United States Embassy in Tehran and opposed the regime’s nuclear ambitions. We would be more hopeful of repairing the troubled American-Iranian relations if such ideas took wider root in Iran.

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