The recent death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has brought about yet another uptick in protests in Iran. The protests centering around Montazeri’s death, and what he meant to the reform movement, do not appear to be going away. Neither does the generalized resistance to the regime’s totalitarian tendencies:
Iranian security forces violently suppressed opposition supporters in the city of Isfahan yesterday as tensions increased before nationwide demonstrations planned for this weekend.
Two days after massive demonstrations in the holy city of Qom, clashes erupted in Isfahan, Iran’s third city, as thousands of mourners gathered for a memorial service for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the opposition’s spiritual leader, who died at the weekend. Opposition websites said riot police and Basij militiamen surrounded the Seyed mosque from early in the morning, and then attacked the mourners with batons, teargas and pepper gas.
Many were injured and dozens were arrested, including four journalists and a cleric, Masoud Abid, who was to deliver the sermon. Reformist website Parlemannews reported that more than 50 people were detained.
“Montazeri mourners shouted slogans against the top authorities,” another website, Rahesabz, reported. “They are beating protesters, including women and children, with batons, chains and stones.” Farid Salavati, an Isfahan resident who tried to attend the memorial, said that tens of thousands gathered outside the mosque but were savagely attacked by security forces. He saw baton-wielding riot police clubbing people around the head and kicking men and women, injuring dozens. “I saw at least two people with blood pouring down their face,” he said.
Security forces also sealed off the home of Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, who organised the service and used to lead Friday prayers in Isfahan until he resigned in 2002 in protest at the regime’s growing authoritarianism. “I tried six different ways to get to the mosque, but they were all blocked,” Parlemannews quoted him as saying. “Treating people this way at a memor-ial service is deplorable.”
Mohammad Khatami, the reformist former President, condemned the violence in Isfahan, which is 200 miles southeast of Tehran: “Imam Khomeini [Iran’s revolutionary leader] believed that the Islamic Republic was based on two pillars — freedom and independence.
“If these pillars become shaky . . . we will have tyranny again,” he said. “Calling anyone who raises his voice a traitor, despite him believing in the [Islamic] system, is a major deviation.”
Which probably is an indication that the system itself needs to go.
I deplore the regime’s brutal efforts to suppress the protests, but if there is a silver lining to all of this, it is that the world is being reminded anew of the Islamic regime’s propensity for violence and tyranny. The more such reminders there are, the greater the chances that the international community will be moved to offer support to the protesters as they fight to liberalize Iran, thus giving the liberalization process a greater chance to succeed.