The greatest champion of reform and enlightenment within the clergy in Iran has passed away. (New York Times coverage found here.) Although he started off as hardline as any of the people who worked to bring about the Islamic Revolution, he soon saw that the Islamic regime was established on a foundation of hypocrisy and lies. He apologized for his role in the hostage-taking of 1979, and criticized Khomeini, his former mentor, for the fact that “people in the world are getting the idea that our business in Iran is just murdering people.”
For this, he was made to suffer–both in terms of being defrocked, and in terms of having his liberty restricted severely. He could have possessed great power by remaining silent, and remaining on track to becoming Khomeini’s successor, as he was meant to have become. Perhaps it might have been smart for him to have kept quiet, ascended to the position of supreme leader, and then worked to undo the destruction wreaked upon Iran by Khomeini and his cohorts. But his conscience would not allow him to remain silent, and to his great credit, he viewed the position of truth-teller as having been more important than the position of supreme leader.
It remains to be seen how Iran will mourn Montazeri. Throwing off shackles of oppression would seem to be the best way, however.