“Rape, atrocities, an unworthy government,” mourners chanted in Qom Monday. “This is the month of blood, Yazid will fall,” sounded another, referring to the 7th-century caliph who killed Hossein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. Today, Yazid is seen as the symbol of evil, and of every oppressive ruler.
“The silence of each Muslim is treason against the Quran,” rang out another slogan. And yet another: “Montazeri’s last wish, an end to this dictatorship.”
Dissident cleric had ‘immunity’ that enabled him to challenge regime
The sight of the aluminum coffin on the top of a truck, all draped in black and inching its way through the sea of mourners, had a sobering effect.
“This is a great loss for the Green Movement, and it will hurt us greatly,” said a female political science student from Tehran. “Montazeri was a great influence among the clergy. Because of his status, he had a sort of immunity which allowed him to at least mention some of the most dangerous issues.”
One middle-aged cleric, also in the crowd, said the timing – and its religious significance – would mean that Montazeri’s decades-long commitment to combating authoritarian rule would not be forgotten.
“The fact that this happened in Moharram means that his name will forever be remembered,” said the cleric. “Moharram is when the Oppressed won over the Oppressor. This will show and prove [that] again.”
Montazeri opposed the June election results as fraudulent, and spoke out against the absolute rule of the supreme theologian – a post in the Islamic republic that Montazeri did much to create. “He was a critic. He started his criticism when he was powerful, not when he was weak,” said the cleric. “He could have remained silent and received benefits from that silence, but he didn’t. He was always siding with the righteous and not the powerful.”