Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Montazeri Weighs In

Grand Ayatollah Husein Ali Montazeri isn't a household name to most westerners, but in Iran he's very important; he very nearly became Supreme Leader (until Khomeini weighed in against him), is a key reformist, and still commands a lot of respect in the country. Most imporantly, his name came up in relation to the protesters: a demands letter passed around among the protesters had as one of its conditions his appointment as Supreme Leader.

So, perhaps, his support of the peaceful protests and criticism of the crackdowns makes a lot of sense. But it's still a big deal:
In the name of God

People of Iran

These last days, we have witnessed the lively efforts of you brothers and sisters, old and young alike, from any social category, for the 10th presidential elections.

Our youth, hoping to see their rightful will fulfilled, came on the scene and waited patiently. This was the greatest occasion for the government’s officials to bond with their people.

But unfortunately, they used it in the worst way possible. Declaring results that no one in their right mind can believe, and despite all the evidence of crafted results, and to counter people protestations, in front of the eyes of the same nation who carried the weight of a revolution and 8 years of war, in front of the eyes of local and foreign reporters, attacked the children of the people with astonishing violence. And now they are attempting a purge, arresting intellectuals, political opponents and Scientifics.

Now, based on my religious duties, I will remind you :

1- A legitimate state must respect all points of view. It may not oppress all critical views. I fear that this lead to the lost of people’s faith in Islam.

2- Given the current circumstances, I expect the government to take all measures to restore people’s confidence. Otherwise, as I have already said, a government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy.

3- I invite everyone, specially the youth, to continue reclaiming their dues in calm, and not let those who want to associate this movement with chaos succeed.

4- I ask the police and army personals not to “sell their religion”, and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before god. Recognize the protesting youth as your children. Today censor and cutting telecommunication lines can not hide the truth.

I pray for the greatness of the Iranian people.
See? Big deal. Now we have a Grand Ayatollah weighing in in the protesters favor, and publicly at that. We also have one saying that "receiving orders will not excuse them before god", a clear threat that this sort of repression is unIslamic. Since one of the main faultlines here is going to be whether or not the protests or the crackdown are more in line with Islam—which the Iranians still take very seriously—this is both welcome news and valuable ammunition for the protesters on the streets and Rafsanjani in the Assembly.

It shows that the faultlines are not between "the mullahs and the people", as the ignorant neocons out there would have you believe. The line is drawn between Muslims who believe in democracy and the "people's confidence" and autocrats who do not.

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