Last month, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri called the Iranian elections “illegitimate” and advised the security forces not to “sell” their religion to a regime producing results that “no one in their right mind” would believe. Montazeri, who at one time had been considered the successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini instead of current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has made his position even more clear. On his website, Montazeri has issued a fatwa against the regime that instructs faithful Muslims to oppose its authority (via TMV):
“A regime that uses clubs, oppression, aggression against [the people’s] rights, injustice, rigged elections, murder, arrests, and medieval or Stalin-era torture, [a regime that] gags and censors the press, obstructs the media, imprisons intellectuals and elected leaders on false allegations or forced confessions… – [such a regime] is despicable and has no religious merit…
“The proud people of Iran know very well exactly how authentic [the detainees’] confessions are; they are like [confessions obtained] by fascist and communist regimes. The nation knows that the false confessions and televised interviews were obtained from its imprisoned sons with threats and torture, and that their aim is to cover up the oppression and injustice, and to [present a] distorted [image] of the people’s peaceful and legal protest…
Query: “What is the ruling regarding holders of government positions, whom shari’a law requires to act justly, honestly, and wisely… if they [do not fulfill] these requirements to any degree, but behave in a manner diametrically opposed to them?”
Reply: “If none of the requirements mentioned in this query are met, this automatically, and without any need for impeachment, brings about the de facto collapse of the velayat [the ‘jurisprudent,’ meaning Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] and of the government that is in charge of administering social affairs [i.e. the government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] – and renders null and void all decrees issued by those who hold government positions…
“In the event of a breach of any article of the contract between the two sides – namely [the contract] between the position holder and the people, who appointed him – the people may remove the position holder from his post.”
Don’t expect to hear much more from Montazeri. Khamenei has tolerated the elder cleric, occasionally placing him under house arrest for much less serious affronts than this to the authority of the Guardian Council and Khamenei himself. Montazeri’s fatwa is an explicit call for revolution, and that will undoubtedly result in drastic action against Montazeri.
However, they have more problems that just an old cleric from the original revolution calling for an encore. One of the more conservative candidates on the ballot, Mohsen Rezai, has called for protests to continue in Iran against Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, and warns that the country will face “disintegration” if the regime refuses to respond properly:
In an implicit rebuke to Iran’s ruling elite, a conservative presidential candidate warned Sunday that the political and social rifts opened by the disputed June 12 vote and subsequent crackdown could lead to the nation’s “disintegration” if they were not resolved soon.
The candidate, Mohsen Rezai, made his warning in a long statement about the election and its bloody aftermath, in which he called for reconciliation and spoke about the danger of “imprisoning” the legacy of the Islamic Revolution in divisive and shortsighted politics. The statement was posted on his Web site.
Although his message was largely nonpartisan, Mr. Rezai hinted that the government response after the election had been unfair, and he urged protesters to continue their work in legal and nonviolent channels.
Like the three other opposition candidates, Mr. Rezai, a former chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, initially said he believed that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory involved ballot-rigging. Mr. Rezai later withdrew his legal challenge to the results, citing the need for unity.
In other words, the protests in Iran won’t be ending any time soon. If the regime insists on using force to retain power, they will lose more of the clergy than just Montazeri. At some point, that will render them illegitimate enough that even the Revolutionary Guard will start looking for exit strategies.