Protests erupt at Montazeri funeral in Iran

posted at 1:42 pm on December 21, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The protests over a badly-rigged presidential election in Iran eventually faded from the headlines around the world, but not from the intentions of Iranian reformers.  They lost one of their religious leaders, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, this weekend, and they have used the funeral for a rally against the mullahcracy in Tehran.  Back again are the familiar calls of “Marg bar dicktator!”, and the AP reports that the streets are filled in Qom, the epicenter of Shi’ite theocracy:

Tens of thousands of Iranian mourners turned the funeral procession of the country’s most senior dissident cleric into an anti-government protest Monday, chanting “death to the dictator” and slogans in support of the opposition amid heavy security.

Giant crowds filled major streets, beating their chests in mourning, waving banners in the green colors of the opposition and shouting denunciations of Iran’s rulers as Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri’s body was carried to a shrine in Iran’s holy city of Qom.

Some mourners clashed briefly with security forces, throwing stones — and hard-line pro-government militiamen charged some protesters until police held them back, opposition Web sites said. The militiamen tore down mourning banners and ripped to pieces posters of Montazeri near his home, the Hammihan Web site reported. Iranian authorities have barred foreign media from covering the rites. …

Mourners shouted “Death to the Dictator” and other slogans in displays of anger against Iran’s ruling establishment during the procession in Qom, a city of shrines and clerical seminaries about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Tehran, witnesses said. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of arrest.

Marchers held aloft black-rimmed portraits of Montazeri and green banners and wrist bands in a powerful show of support for the Green Movement of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who attended the funeral along with another prominent protest leader, Mahdi Karroubi.

The death of Montazeri put Ali Khameini in a tough spot.  Montazeri was one of the key figures of the 1979 revolution, which meant that a failure to honor him at his death would be an unconscionable snub for a government that clings to 1979 for its legitimacy.  But the mullahs also knew that the out-of-favor cleric would inspire rebellion even after his death, especially so close to the summer of unrest throughout the nation.  They had to allow his funeral to proceed and  hope that their security forces would keep things quiet, and they barred the foreign press from covering it if it failed.

So far, that strategy also seems to have failed.  Word has gotten out of the massive unrest in Qom, which is an acute embarrassment to the theocrats in Tehran.  If they have lost the people of Qom, it calls into question how much legitimacy they actually enjoy in Iran, and how much they will have to use a police-state security apparatus to maintain power.

History teaches that police states always fail, and it doesn’t take much in the end to topple them.  Sometimes it’s just the destruction of a wall that provides the final catalyst.  A funeral may do the same thing, but the people of Iran will have to keep up the pressure in order to make it happen.

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which meant that a failure to honor him at his death would be an unconscionable snub for a government that clings to 1979 for its legitimacy.

When you need to cling to something from the 70′s for legitimacy, you have a problem.

WashJeff on December 21, 2009 at 1:46 PM

I don’t think I’d get all wiggly over this. If I remember correctly when Ayatolla Khomeini died they rioted and ended up dumping the body in the street.

Oldnuke on December 21, 2009 at 1:48 PM

Via Rick Moran\American Thinker:

Next weekend marks the Shia Muslim festival of Ashura where demonstrations had already been planned by the opposition. The BBC reports that there may be even larger demonstrations as protestors will also mark the 7 day anniversary of Montazeri’s death.

May the Persians get the freedom and soon.

WashJeff on December 21, 2009 at 1:49 PM

When you need to cling to something from the 70’s for legitimacy, you have a problem.

WashJeff on December 21, 2009 at 1:46 PM

And it’s no coincidence that all the failed, liberal policies tried in the 70′s to grand failure are back in full force by our new Messiah.

search4truth on December 21, 2009 at 1:50 PM

Really unprecedented, historic, poetic speech about Democracy, rights of the people, freedom, human rights coming from the Caliph of AmeriArabia Barack I in 5……..4……..3……..

PappyD61 on December 21, 2009 at 1:57 PM

I can only hope that Ahmadinejad gets the same warm sendoff that Nicolae Ceaucescu got.

RBMN on December 21, 2009 at 2:02 PM

History teaches that police states always fail, and it doesn’t take much in the end to topple them.  Sometimes it’s just the destruction of a wall that provides the final catalyst.  A funeral may do the same thing, but the people of Iran will have to keep up the pressure in order to make it happen.

Well, I can’t wait until our coming police state fails but doubt I or my children will be around to see it.

TXUS on December 21, 2009 at 2:04 PM

Having a theocracy in charge makes as much sense as having a marxist/socialist government….oh, wait.

I hope that the people of Iran are able to overthrow those scumbags in charge there. There will be blood though.

GnuBreed on December 21, 2009 at 2:20 PM

I am kind of weary of trying to predict how people and governments will react to things. I think it may be pointless right now because, truly, people are out of their minds. The whole species has gone quite bonkers. I would hope that Iranians could muster a little self-rule and equal rights and, dare I say it, a Contitutional Republic like this nation used to be. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Iran has a distinct purpose in the future as described in Is 38 and 39. If it stumbles upon a true representative form of government it may be short lived.

Driefromseattle on December 21, 2009 at 2:27 PM

Thank goodness Obama issued that statement in support of today’s protests. He’s always on the side of Democracy!

/sarc

hawksruleva on December 21, 2009 at 2:31 PM

Well, I can’t wait until our coming police state fails but doubt I or my children will be around to see it.

TXUS on December 21, 2009 at 2:04 PM

Don’t give up hope. Real change doesn’t have to take a long time. It’s quite possible that we’re on the verge of a major reform in our system of government.

hawksruleva on December 21, 2009 at 2:32 PM

So far, that strategy also seems to have failed. Word has gotten out of the massive unrest in Qom, which is an acute embarrassment to the theocrats in Tehran and Obama

FIFY

aikidoka on December 21, 2009 at 2:39 PM

There will be blood though.

There always is in a real fight for independence. It has never been bloodless. This year as I taught the American War for Independence I have thought more and more about this, what it meant to do what they did, and why they did it. Also, watching what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan I have determined that unless a people want liberty for themselves, there is nothing that can really be done to help them. If they themselves will not sacrifice, no one can give them liberty.

Govgirl on December 21, 2009 at 2:40 PM

If only our Weasel in Chief had steely gonads…if only…

Schadenfreude on December 21, 2009 at 2:48 PM

Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…………………….

Iran is full of grumpy Muslims who have not been free for 1400 years. How could Muslims be looking for something they have no experience of?

BL@KBIRD on December 21, 2009 at 2:53 PM

Too bad Obama doesn’t use this opportunity to give a “Tear Down This Wall” kind of speech that Reagan gave.

What a wasted opportunity.

Conservative Samizdat on December 21, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Cant i just finish my waffles? /The smartest President eva

theTarCzar on December 21, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Iran is full of grumpy Muslims who have not been free for 1400 years. How could Muslims be looking for something they have no experience of?

BL@KBIRD on December 21, 2009 at 2:53 PM

But what they had before the fall of the Shah, came reasonably close.

Slowburn on December 21, 2009 at 3:32 PM

I too wonder what they are really asking for. Although I’m kind of thinking the whole enemy of my enemy thing about it right now, I question if we would really care for the next government to come along their either.

WitchDoctor on December 21, 2009 at 4:08 PM

About this time, 20 years go: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6962218.ece

Grunchy Cranola on December 21, 2009 at 5:05 PM

It’s sad that the threads about what is going on in Iran get so little attention, especially considering that it is something that actually matters.

I don’t know if the other government would be much of an improvement, but right now we’re at the point where the current one is about to start a nuclear war. What do we have to lose? I’ve met Iranians and there are a lot of them that want a more western lifestyle. Unfortunately, they sat back and let a bunch of looneys take over their country. Just like we have. Maybe they’ll show us the way out of our predicament.

Oh well, back to Tiger’s bimbos.

deewhybee on December 21, 2009 at 11:44 PM