Friday, December 25, 2009

Was Grand Ayatollah Montazeri Poisoned? Is He the Last One?

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The circumstances surrounding the death of late Ayatollah Ozama Ali Montazeri raise questions, at the very least. Late Ayatollah Montazeri died at his home in Qom on Saturday 19 December. The Iranian authorities delayed announcing his death by around twenty four hours, and the official Iranian press omitted to mention his religious seniority. As soon as the bad news spread, displays of mourning and grief were seen on the streets of Iran, and especially in the universities. The late Ayatollah Montazeri was once Khomeini's designated heir, but he lost this position after being perceived as a fierce critic of the regime, and the opposition's main religious authority, due to his support for the principle of separation of religion and state. His opposition to Iran's model of an Islamic republic, was the main reason for which he drew fire from the regime, which took it upon itself to see to his mysterious death. He was not the first person 'dealt with' in this way. The regime did not even hesitate to poison Ahmad Khomeini, the son of Khomeini, father of the Islamic Revolution, or Ayatollah Shariat-Madari. It was only in recent years that Ayatollah Montazeri, who was 87, was released from a decade of house arrest due to his poor health.

Since the last elections, the regime appears to be 'pursuing clerics', whom it perceives as a threat to the principle of " Velayat-e Faqih". Examples of this phenomenon include the surprise two-week detention of the president of Qom university, the cleric Zabihi, and his son, who are considered supporters of Moussavi, and the detention of Ayatollah San'ani, who is identified with the reformists, on the charge of holding demonstrations. On 6 October, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who is considered a close associate of President Ahmadinejad, criticized some of the clerics and senior figures in the regime who supported protests following the presidential elections (implicitly individuals who identified with the reformists, including late Ayatollah Montazeri). The funeral of the late Ayatollah Montazeri was held in Qom on 21 December, at the 'Ma'asume' burial site in the city center. The funeral was devoid of fitting press coverage, and his true cause of death was covered up. Concern that anti-regime demonstrations might be held by the 'seekers of change' was the reason given for the deployment of extra Iranian security forces in Qom, and on the main routes leading to it. However, this was just another excuse employed by the oppressive regime against those seeking freedom in Iran, in order to prevent the participation of mourners in the funeral ceremony for the late Ayatollah Montazeri. A question is left open — is late Ayatollah Montazeri the last one, or the daring of the Pasdaran and the intelligence forces in Iran will lead them to more assassinations, like Ayatollahs Yousof Saneei, Moussavi Ardabili, Shobeyri Zanjani and Bayat.